Few may know the significance of these dates and their relation to ocean spume. I myself was not really aware of them until coming across this article about a map. Of course, when I saw the headline, I went, ‘oooohh, map!’, because the designs of the cartographers of old fascinate and delight me. But the idea that the Chinese were first in yet another arena made me chuckle. Who would I be today if the Americas had turned out Oriental, instead of Occidental?
The description of the map itself reminded me of one of my favorite novels, Wrack, by James Bradley. In the vein of Eco, it chronicles the story of a modern archaeologist, a dying man, and the age of Australia’s discovery. I like it, both for the cadence of the words and the winding of the narrative in upon itself. Since the Chinese map also included Australia, it invokes the question now of whether the Chinese had explored that continent as well before Europeans came to the region.
The book itself leaves many questions unanswered about the true European discoverers of the island-continent, many of those questions sparked by the existence of European maps reflecting an accurate representation of Australian coastline before the supposed date of discovery. It’s the same sort of questions that will have to be asked regarding the Chinese map if its authenticity is proven. After all, does the existence of map imply discovery? How accurate must a map be to ‘prove’ that someone has visited a particular coastline? If you have any interest, these two sites give some general outlining information for the 1606 date of discovery for Australia. Personally I prefer the questionable spin that Bradley puts on the whole situation.