Exploration

Voyages

Voyages of discovery

Europeans had been searching for rich new lands in the Southern Hemisphere long before Captain James Cook arrived on the east coast of Australia in 1770. Explore the State Library's incredible maps, journals, drawings and books.

The Spanish quest for Terra Australis

Spanish explorer Pedro Fernandes de Queirós' quest to discover Terra Australis is documented in a number of rare 'memorials' held by the Library.

Captain Cook’s voyages of discovery

Terra Australis Incognita – the unknown southern land. The existence (or not) of this mysterious, mythical place had been puzzled over since it was first hypothesised by the ancient Greeks and Romans

Matthew Flinders: placing Australia on the map

Flinders proved that Tasmania was an island, traced the coasts of the Australian continent and was the first person to use ‘Australian’ to describe the inhabitants of this land. He named nothing after himself.

From Terra Australis to Australia

Discover the original journals, logbooks, letters, paintings and drawings covering the voyage of the First Fleet, the mutiny on the Bounty and Matthew Flinders' journeys.

The Australian interior

Crossing the Blue Mountains

None of the settlers in Sydney knew what lay west of the Blue Mountains in the early 1800s. This vast natural barrier that stretched north and south beyond sight had thwarted all attempts to cross or go around it.

Hume and Hovell

The story of the intrepid adventurers who explored and opened up inland Australia.

Leichhardt’s continental treks

On an expedition to cross the Australian continent from East to West, the celebrated explorer Ludwig Leichhardt (1813-1848) and his party disappeared.

Burke and Wills

As white settlement in Australia progressed, rumours abounded in the coastal cities as to what lay in the country’s largely unexplored centre.

Lasseter's lost reef

Nothing captures the Australian imagination quite like the thought of striking it lucky. So it’s no surprise one of our greatest legends involves a search for a mysterious vein of gold.

Eureka! The rush for gold

The gold rushes and the diggers who worked the goldfields are etched into Australian folklore. Follow the story of the people who sought the glittering prize.

The Pacific and beyond

A French sailor-artist on the South Seas

An enquiry from France brings to light a gem of nineteenth century travel illustration.

Early Antarctic adventures

The subject of much speculation, the idea of an unknown southern land began with the ancient Greeks.

Antarctica: Frank Hurley

As the official photographer on the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, Frank Hurley provided a remarkable record of the dangers and heroism of Antarctic exploration in the early twentieth century.

Antarctica: modern adventures

Like many other nations, Australia was looking to the future after the turmoil of the Second World War. Several countries saw Antarctica as a potential source of territory, fishing and mineral resources.