The case for a Great Southern Continent

Alexander Dalrymple’s overriding passion in life was determining the existence of a Great Southern Continent. He gathered together as many sources of information about Pacific voyages as he could, having several translated into English for the first time, to create his great work, An account of the discoveries made in the south Pacifick Ocean, previous to 1764. This book, published in 1767 aimed to present ‘a summary Account of the Discoveries which had been made previous to 1764, and of the Arguments for the existence of a Southern Continent.’

Dalrymple's preface explains his motivation and the scope of his work:

'The Author looking up to Columbus, to Magellan, and to those immortal heroes who have display’d new worlds to our view…was inflamed with the ambition to do something to promote the general benefit of mankind… The first and most striking object of research was, The discovery of a Southern Continent...
1. A Geographical Description of the places hitherto discovered between America and Papua on the South of the Equator.
2. It is proposed to examine into the Conduct of the Discoverers in the Tracks they made choice of. And having thus recapitulated every thing that has been discovered,
3. It is in view to investigate what may be farther expected in this quarter, from the analogy of nature, as well as from the deduction of past discoveries.’

Dalrymple’s book was read with interest by those mounting the 1770 expedition to view the Transit of Venus in the Endeavour, eventually led by Captain Cook. Joseph Banks, Cook himself, members of the Royal Society and the Admiralty all took Dalrymple’s research into account, particularly when issuing Cook with his secret instructions to seek the Southern Continent. Dalrymple’s exclusion from the expedition remained a source of bitter resentment for the rest of his life.

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Selections from An account of the discoveries made in the south Pacifick Ocean, previous to 1764, by Alexander Dalrymple, London ; [s.l.], 1767
Printed book  76/5