Beware fleets of fantasy – Geoff Wade

From The Australian (link):

On Friday evening, the University of Melbourne intends to give its imprimatur to history of the most fanciful kind. It is precisely the wrong way to put Australian history on the map. And indeed, it is the historical mapping of Australia that is at stake.

Throughout 2006, geographers, cartographers and historians will be marking the 400th anniversary of the mapping of Australia. The 1606-2006 timeframe derives from the arrival in Australian waters in 1606 of the Dutchman Willem Janszoon sailing in the vessel Duyfken.

The anniversary marks the integration of the Australian continent into a mapped world. It is important and will attract appropriate attention nationally and globally.

But there are those who would like to push back the dates of this integration by about two centuries, and are untroubled by the absence of evidence.

Earlier this month, Cai Wu, minister in charge of China’s State Council Information Office, led a Chinese media delegation to Australia.

During his speech to the National Press Club in Canberra on April 12, Cai noted: “You might all be well aware that last year China commemorated the 600th anniversary of the epic voyages of Zheng He, a great navigator in ancient China.

“According to historical records, the fleets he commanded once arrived at the coast of Australia, which might serve as the start of Sino-Australian cultural exchanges and trade.”


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