Australia becomes a colony

First British explorers

The first Englishman to visit Australian shores was William Dampier, in 1688. The account of his journey concluded that the coast of Australia – named New Holland by the Dutch – was worthy of further exploration.

The idea of transporting convicts to Australia first appeared in 1766 when John Callender proposed that Britain could found a colony there, which would also help them exploit the land’s resources.

In 1769, Captain James Cook, in command of HMS Endeavour, travelled to Tahiti to observe and record the transit of the planet Venus. He initially sought to find the Southern continent, which was assumed to be located South of the previous navigators’ track, but he could not find it. This is because the Southern continent – also named Terra Australis (Latin for South Land) - was only a hypothetical mass of land. Before the discovery of what is now known as the continents of Australia and Antarctica, some Europeans adopted the idea – first proposed as early as the 5th century – that the South of the world contained just one large continent.

Cook then decided to explore the east coast of Australia, which had not yet been charted by Dutch explorers.

In 1770, the Endeavour landed ...

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