By Barbara Miller


THE EUROPEAN QUEST TO FIND TERRA AUSTRALIS INCOGNITA: Quiros, Torres and JanszooIn a tale of drama and suspense, the true story of the quest to find the Unknown South Land – Terra Australis Incognita is told. It has fascinated people since ancient times.

Many Australians were taught Englishman James Cook discovered Australia but Cook came 164 years later than the Dutch and Spanish explorers. The Indigenous people were there from time immemorial. Quiros thought he’d discovered the south land when he landed at today’s Vanuatu. Torres continued and found the Torres Strait separated New Guinea from the south land.

Despite all the passion of the Spanish quest, the Dutch under Janszoon beat Torres to Australia by about six months in 1606. They had deadly encounters with the Aboriginal people of western Cape York, Queensland.


“This is a highly insightful coverage of the main historical characters in the early European exploration of the South West Pacific, a topic which is virtually unknown to most Australians. Miller deftly contextualises the men: Quiros (‘the Don Quixote of the South sea’), Torres and Janszoon with their voyages in the 16th and 17th centuries. Similarly, she places the actions of these adventurers in the context of the respective Indigenous responses to contact. From the Wik at Aurukun and the Tjungundji and others around (Old) Mapoon on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula, to the descendents at Big Bay on Vanuatu and other Melanesian groups, the author brings the reader up-to-date with the reconciliation process and the Indigenous perspective on these early European contacts. This is a valuable contribution to not only understanding Australian history, but is also relevant to the Islands of Melanesia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.”
Dr Timothy Bottoms
Author of Conspiracy of Silence – Queensland’s frontier killing times (Allen & Unwin 2013)


This is an action-packed page turner and a history book at the same time. I can see it on the big screen and I can see it on reading lists in high schools.

After visiting the beach where de Quiros landed in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu for the anniversary on 14 May 2012, I thought it might be interesting to re-trace the voyage of de Quiros. I know that was partly the inspiration for my wife doing the research that led to this book.

Amazingly enough, in writing this book, it is as if she has taken us on that journey in the spirit or in our imagination. In this story, we traverse continents, travel through centuries and visit many people groups. It is an exciting journey.

What stirred the explorers to face the hardships in the elusive quest to find this mysterious South Land? The author answers this eloquently. Though she has kept her distance as an historian, her compassion for both the explorers and the Indigenous people of the Pacific they met is palpable.

This book has been written for such a time as this. It positions us to look at our history, at ourselves, what we celebrate and what wounds of history need healing. It is also a story of reconciliation.
We can forget history and repeat our mistakes or we can learn from history. We can find ourselves in the story. We can be history makers and become part of the story.

This is a ground-breaking book. It challenges the history books I grew up with when I went to school. Those books had a British view of Australia’s past. There were other European nations involved in the charting of Australia’s coastline and Australia was peopled by Indigenous people long before Europeans came.

But this book is not just about Australia. It puts Australia in the context of the Pacific and Asia with stories of many Pacific Islands including Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. The exotic Spice Islands of Indonesia and the Philippines come to life on its pages with fighting between the Spaniards and the Moors. The old world of Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands and the new world of Mexico, Central and South America buzz with the adventures that are told including encounters with the Incas. It is a story also of colonialism and the Age of Discovery.

As the life of Quiros in Spanish-ruled Portugal is woven, we find out about the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions, the Reformation and Counter-Reformation and even the slave trade out of Africa and other places.

This is not another dull history book. It is easy reading but well researched. It is the opportunity for an encounter with ourselves as it is ultimately a story about us.

Norman Miller

Cairns, Australia 18.02.14

About the Author

Barbara Miller
Barbara Miller

Barbara Miller is married to Norman, an Aboriginal Australian. She has a son, Michael. They live in Cairns, North Queensland, Australia.She is a pastor, mediator, psychologist and teacher and has had a keen interest in working for Aboriginal advancement since1970. She was instrumental in the movement of the Mapoon Aboriginal people back to their land in 1974.

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Acknowledgements 7
Review 9
Foreword 11
Introduction 13
Chapter 1 – The World of Quiros 19
Chapter 2 – Mendana and Quiros: Peru to the Solomon Islands 31
Chapter 3 – Quiros’ Fascination with Terra Australis Incognita, the Unknown South Land 53
Chapter 4 – The Voyage 1605-1606: the Last of Spain’s Great Maritime Explorations 71
Chapter 5 – Encounter at Vanuatu and Proclamation of La Austrialia del Espiritu Santo 109
Chapter 6 – Quiros and Torres Separate, Quiros Sails to Mexico and Spain 137
Chapter 7 – The Dutch Beat Spain to Australia – Janszoon’s voyage 163
Chapter 8 – Torres Explores the Torres Strait and PNG 191
Chapter 9 – Torres Sails from the Spice Islands to Manila 209
Chapter 10 – Did Quiros Land on Australia? The Franciscans Pick up Quiros’ Vision 223
Chapter 11 – Did the Portuguese Find Australia First? 235
Chapter 12 – Re-enactment of Duyfken Voyage and Reconciliation, 400 year commemorations 255
Chapter 13 – La Austrialia del Espiritu Santo Reconciliation, 400 year commemorations 279
Chapter 14 – The Naming of Australia and British and French 200 year commemorations 309
References 323
Warning: This document may contain images of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons or deceased persons of other nationalities

Copyright @ March 2014 by Barbara Miller
B.A. (Hons) Psych, Grad Dip Sociology, Assoc. MAPS
Printed in Sydney by WritersandeBooks

Library of Congress Control Number:
ISBN 9 781925 023824 Softcover