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Modern History 1600 – Present

Vasco Da Gama

Da Gama was a Portuguese Ocean Explorer.  Although he did not come to Australia, he suspected there must be a land mass here, and he was the first European who recorded seeing the ‘Southern Cross’ star constellation, which he took as an omen from God.  Da Gama proved that with the right navigational aids and technology, sea passages to Africa, India and Asia could be achievable, and opened the way for other European navigators to explore, such as Abel Tasman, and James Cook, centuries later.

Pedro Fernandes de Queiros

Another Portuguese explorer who served the King of Spain sailed south to find this unknown south land.  Pedro Fernandes de Queiros landed on an island which he thought was part of the continent and named it, Australia del Espiritu Santo (South Land of the Holy Spirit).  The island is now called Espiritu Santo, but the land mass he was looking for later became known as ‘Australia’.  Australia means ‘South Land’.  In some versions it was Austrialia del Espiritu Santo, which was a ‘pun’ on the nation of Austria, because the Spanish King also happened to be Austrian.

Ferdinand Magellan

Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese sea explorer who served the King of Spain.  He was the first recorded person in history to circumnavigate the World.  He himself never returned to Spain, but a handful of his men on one ship did.  His travels and discoveries encouraged further exploration by other Europeans, thus opening up the discovery of Australia by Europeans.

Francisco Pizarro

Pizarro was a conquistador who enslaved the Incas of Peru.  He was a ruthless commander, but also a brave and daring explorer.  His  plunder of Peru and use of the Panama City to cross spheres, enabled Spain to become the dominant super power of its time.  The wealth generated from his and others’ exploits caused further exploration and colonisation  by other European powers.

Sir Francis Drake

Drake was an opportunist.  He was a daring sea captain and explorer.  He was a slave trader, pirate and admiral.  He was the second European to circumnavigate the Earth, and the first English man to do so.  He was second in charge of the defence of  England during the great Spanish Armada which threatened England in 1588.

Drake never set foot  in  Australia, but he inspired generations of English men to explore new lands.  The development of the English navy helped to make England a naval super power for centuries to come, and gave people like James Cook the confidence to tackle new challenges.  These challenges resulted in the founding of many colonies throughout the World, such as Australia and New Zealand, and evolved into the British Empire of the 18th and 19th Centuries, the World’s largest empire the World had ever known.

British Heritage

Abel Tasman         Map of Tasman’s Voyages

Great Ocean Voyager and cartographer

Captain James Cook


Captain Arthur Philip (Governor Philip)


Henry Bass and Matthew Flinders


Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth


The Pasturalists


The Gold Rush


The Bush Rangers







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