A centuries-old mystery is re-imagined by novelist
WHEN Captain Cook landed at (what is now) Seventeen Seventy, did he already know it was there?
That is the question raised by Australian novelist, and former Gladstone resident, Trevor Tucker in his latest book: The Stolen Maps: Australia's greatest maritime secret?
Tucker has based his book on theories expounded by Kenneth Gordon McIntyre who argued in the 1970s, that Portuguese mariners visited and mapped the coastline of Australia well before the British.
"The Portuguese should take all the credit for discovering the east coast of Australia," Tucker said.
"With a slight twist of fate Portuguese may have become Australia's native language, not English."
In Tucker's novel, he has imagined the Portuguese mariners stopping off at the location of modern-day Seventeen Seventy.
"They were desperately short of fresh water and food and went ashore initially to find water. They sent a hunting partner and they had great success shooting bustards," Tucker said.
"When (Cook) anchored, (at Seventeen Seventy) he put over a few long boats to search for water."
Interestingly Tucker said, "when they found a creek (Cook) reported 'it wasn't as big as he thought it would be' which suggests he had prior information."
Theories about Portuguese sailors having mapped the east coast of Australia centuries before Cook, have been based on more than mere fancy.
Slivers of evidence have been uncovered in Australia including the 1986 discovery off the coast of Ballina, in northern NSW, of a full suit of naval armour which Tucker said proved to be "identical to that worn by Portuguese naval officers in the early 1520s".
Tucker said in his novel he puts forward a convincing argument that the Portuguese maps of Australia's east coast, which McIntyre argued were real, did exist.
"The Portuguese were ... on the cusp of creating the first map of the world," Tucker said.
"They didn't get round to it because they were having a conflict with the Spanish."
In the 1500s, the Portuguese stored their maps in a repository at the Casa da India in Lisbon, but when Lisbon was hit by an earthquake and tsunami the maps were destroyed.
But not before some of the maps were stolen and somehow found their way into the hands of Captain James Cook, Tucker said.
Perhaps the mystery will continue.
The Stolen Maps: Australia's greatest maritime secret? is an e-book on Amazon. Or contact Trevor Tucker direct for a paperback: firstname.lastname@example.org