Tag Archives: australia

Colonization of Oceania

australia ocenani vintage map poster

Map of Australia and Oceania, ca 1876

British, Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese and American colonies are marked in the chart.

The second half of the 19th century was the pinnacle of the colonisation of Oceania. The process began in 1788 when Australia became a British colony. Smaller islands followed in the1840s: the French claimed the Society Islands, the Tuamotu Archipelago, the Gambier Islands and the Marquesas. Papeete, the largest settlement in Tahiti became the capital of French Polynesia. New Caledonia followed in the 1850s as a French penal colony. At first, the British were unwilling to claim larger areas of the Pacific due to the expensive administration of tiny, sporadically inhabited islands scattered across an enormous area. This changed with the opening of the Panama Canal in the 1880s, which opened up new nautical routes in the Pacific. The emergence of Germany and the USA as new colonial powers was another reason for the fast colonization of the Pacific islands in the late 18th century. The atmosphere of colonial Oceania is depicted in the memoirs of the famous British author Robert Louis Stevenson who travelled the Marquesas and the Gilbert Islands in the 1880s.

The First Circumnavigation of Australia

vintage map reproduction australia south east asiaMap of Southeast Asia and Australia, 1803.

This map depicts Southeast Asia and Australia as it was known to European mapmakers in 1803. There were several voyages aimed at exploring and mapping the continent; starting with Willem Janszoon who, as the first European, landed on Australia’s Cape York Peninsula in 1606, followed by Dirk Hartog’s navigation to the coast of what is today the North West Division of Western Australia in 1616 and Abel Tasman’s second voyage to map the continent’s northern coastline in 1644. The eastern coast was charted by Captain James Cook in 1770. The entire coastline had not been drawn into maps before the first voyage of Captain Matthew Flinders (1801-1802) during which he mapped the remaining part of the southern coast and proved that Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) was separated from Australia by a strait, named after Flinders’ fellow navigator George Bass. The strait is already depicted in this map. During his second voyage in 1803, Flinders circumnavigated Australia as the first European. After completing the circumnavigation, Flinders set off to sail back to England. However, he spent six years in French captivity after he stopped in Mauritius because of the poor condition of his vessel.

The life story of this famous navigator and cartographer is captured in Miriam Estensen’s “Mathew Flinders: The Life of Mathew Flinders“.

Buy restored reproduction of this map printed on a high quality handmade paper here.