31 MAY 1930, Page 21

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[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] SIR,—In the interests of historical accuracy it is necessary to challenge several statements made in your review (May 17th)

of " New Light on the Discovery of Australia." • a. It is not well known, or even generally believed, that the northern coast of Australia was sighted in 1606 by a Spanish ship. . On the contrary, it is fairly well ascertained that the ship referred to—which carried Torres and Prado- did not, come within fifty. miles of the Australian ,coast; and not a word or an indication in Prado's newly-diScovered " journal " (which the document is not) supports or revives an opposite conclusion.

b. It is scarcely accurate to call Prado " the Columbus of Australia " on the strength of his three maps of New Guinea. Australia had been discovered; and landed on, by Dutch sailors six months before any Spaniard was anywhere near it.

c. On October 3rd, 1606, Prado was according to his own account among islands in the neighbourhood of Bligh Channel ; his descriptions are vague, and he may have been farther north ; but he was nowhere near the Australian coast.

d. The letter of Torres was not discovered at Manila in 1762. Dalrymple had seen a copy of the Arias Memorial (from which he derived his knowledge of Torres) at Madras in or before 1759, and. searched for it at Manila in 1762, but could not find it. The Torres letter, a very different document' he had not yet seen in 1790, but received a copy from Spain

a few years later.—I am, Sir, &c., Aarnon JOSE.

The Royal Empire Society, Northumberland Avenue, W.C. 2.

[Our reviewer writes :—" I was well aware that my attempt to indicate the importance of Prado's newly discovered MS., so admirably edited by Mr. Stevens, would occasion some adverse 'comment,- for the Spanish' voyage of 1606 his long been a matter Of heated controversy. It is not question of ' hiStorical accuracy,' but rather one of the inter- pretation of evidence, now ihneh enlarged by Prado's account but still incomplete. Whether Prado and Torres, in their ,pioneer voyage through the uncharted reefs and shoals of Tones Strait, actually sighted the Australian mainland .must be a matter of opinion. Professor Arnold Wood and Mr. Stevens think that they did : Mr. Jose disagrees. Personally, I feel sure that the explorers sighted, if not sailed beside, some of the islands off the northern coast of Australia and now within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. Nearer the truth we shall never get, but that is sufficient to justify Prado's claim to be regarded as the Columbus of Australia. Mr. Jose may be reminded that when Columbus ' discovered America' in 1492, he found, first, one of the Bahamas, and then Cuba and Hayti. He did not reach the mainland until his third voyage of 1498, but no one would seek to belittle his achievement of 1492 on that account, and the credit that we give to Columbus may surely be given to Prado and Tones. The crew of the Dutch pinnace Duyfhen,' earlier. in 1606, are said to have landed near Cape York, but they missed Torres Strait and their voyage cannot be ranked in importance with that of Prado. As to the letter of Tones, Major, quoted by Mr. Stevens, states that it, or a copy of it, was found at Manila in 1762, but Mr. Jose, as an eminent authority on this subject, is doubtless right in his version of the facts. The point is that Tones' discovery of the strait became known about that time to English geographers, and one of Cook's objects on his famous voyage was to confirm the existence of the channel between New

Guinea and New Holland."—En. Spectator.] -