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Terra Australis Incognita - the unknown southern land. The existence (or not) of this mysterious, mythical place has intrigued philosophers, explorers and map-makers since it was first hypothesised by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The empire-builders of 18th century Britain were just as obsessed with discovering land below the Equator.
In 1768, when Captain James Cook set sail on the first of three voyages to the South Seas, he carried with him secret orders from the British Admiralty to seek ‘a Continent or Land of great extent’ and to take possession of that country ‘in the Name of the King of Great Britain’.
While each of his three epic journeys had its own aims and yielded its own spectacular discoveries, it was this confidential agenda that would transform the way Europeans viewed the Pacific Ocean and its lands. The maps, journals, log books and paintings from Cook’s travels are just some of the State Library’s incredible records of this exciting time.