The Spanish quest for Terra Australis

Pedro Fernandes de QueirosPedro Fernandes de Queirós

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) 
Ile Marina ou Marena: Tierra Australia del Espiritu Santo, découverte par Queiroz & Torres, 1er May 1606Ile Marina ou Marena: Tierra Australia
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.

Find out more in our Acquisitions blog.
Read the media release

Memorial 2

Memorial 2

Señor : el capitan Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, digo : que para descubrir la parte incognita del Sur ...

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Memorial 3

Memorial 3

Señor : el capitan Pedro Fernandez de Quiròs : despues q puse en pratica el descubrimiento de las tierras incognitas del Sur ...

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Memorial 4

Memorial 4

Senor : el capitan Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, que por mãdado de V. M. ...

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Memorial 5

Memorial 5

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 ...

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Memorial 6

Memorial 6

Señor : ya he dicho a V. Magestad que de la parte del Sur, esta oculta la quarta parte del globo ...

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Memorial 7

Memorial 7

Señor : el capitan Pedro Fernandez de Quiros : suplico a V.M. sea seruido ...

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Memorial 8

Memorial 8

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]

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Memorial 9

Memorial 9

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]

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Memorial 10

Memorial 10

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.

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Memorial 11

Memorial 11

Señor : el capitan Pedro Fernandez de Quiros : cincuenta meses ha que estoy en esta Corte, suplicande a V.M. se sirua mandar me vaya a poblar las tierras que V.M. me mandò descubrir.

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Memorial 12

Memorial 12

Señor : el capitan Pedro Fernandez de Quiros : la parte incognita Austral es justamente quarta del Globo, sin saberse si es tierra, o si es agua, o que partes tiene de las dos ...

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Memorial 13

Memorial 13

Señor : capitan Pedro Fernandez de Quiros : V. Wagestad me mandò despachar dos vezes, la sequnda a mi satisfacion, juntamente esperar un año y son passados casi dos ...

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Memorial 14

Memorial 14

Señor : el capitan Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, a V.M. pido licencia para quexarme ...

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Download the glossary of historical and geographic names (PDF)

 

 

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