The Spanish quest for Terra Australis
Pedro Fernandes de Queirós was a navigator best known for his voyages of discovery in search of the great south land. He was born in Portugal in 1563 and became a Spanish subject when the countries were temporarily united in 1580.
In 1605, Queiros [Quirós is the Spanish form of his name] sailed from Callao, Peru, in command of an expedition to discover Terra Australis Incognita, the great southern continent thought to exist in the Pacific.
The expedition reached the islands later called the New Hebrides in 1606. Queiros landed on a large island which he mistook to be the southern continent. He named it Austrialia del Espiritu Santo and claimed it for Spain together with all of the Pacific region to the South Pole. The island now called Espiritu Santo is part of today’s Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.
Paul Brunton on Pedro de Queirós (5 mins)
del Espiritu Santo, découverte
par Queiroz & Torres,1er May 1606
It is not clear why the fleet then split up. Quiros returned to Mexico in one ship and Luis Vaez de Torres sailed to Manila along the south coast of Papua New Guinea through the Strait which now bears his name.
Following his return to Madrid in 1607, Queirós wrote about fifty petitions to King Philip III of Spain describing the wonders of the land he had discovered and requesting Royal support to organise a new expedition to the Southern hemisphere.
Most of these petitions or “memorials” were manuscripts but fourteen were printed between 1607 and 1614 at Queirós’ expense for presentation to the King and his councils.
These 'presentation' memorials - to be distinguished from later derivative printings which appeared throughout Europe after the leaking of one of the original memorials – are the first and possibly the rarest of all printed Australiana. The State Library holds 13 of the 14 known presentation memorials in the Mitchell and Dixson Libraries - the world’s pre-eminent collection.
Tragically in 1615, after finally being granted permission for another expedition, Queiros died in Panama before he could carry out his “divine mission”.
‘Holy grail’ of Australiana
The two previously unknown Queirós memorials, printed in 1608 and 1614, document the pre history of the European discovery of Australia, and remained in private hands until they were recently acquired by the State Library. Memorials are the equivalent of a modern-day request for sponsorship.
Señor : el capitan Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, con este son ocho los memoriales que a V.M. he presentado en razon de las poblacion q se deue hazer en las tierras que V.M. mandò que descubriesse en la parte Austral incognita ...
Señor : el capitan Pedro Fernandez de Quiros : de mostrar V.M. al mundo, quanto dessea, y procura la mas honra y gloria de Dios nuestro señor, en la poblacion que V.M. mãda q yo vaya a hazer, en las tierras q de la parte Austral por orden de V.M. descubri ... [short version]
Señor : el capitan Pedro Fernádez de Quiros : de mostrar V.M. al mundo, quanto dessea, y procura la mas honra y gloria de Dios nuestro señor, en la poblacion que V.M. mãda q yo vaya a hazer, en las tierras q de la parte Austral por orden de V.M. descubri ... [long version]
Señor : el Capitan Pedro Fernandez de Quiros : V.M. ordena y manda a su Consejo de Indias que me despachos a mi satisfacion para que el Virrey del Piru me de lo que fuere menester a la poblacion de las tierras Australes adonde V.M. se sirue mandarme ir.