In Search of the Southern Continent
By Avan Judd Stallard
A definitive account of a cultural mirage dreamt up by mapmakers over centuries. Like a cartographer of old, Avan Judd Stallard plots in fascinating detail the shifting sands of an imagined geography. Myth and science are intriguingly entangled in this panoramic history of the mapping of the world. Riddled with humour and insight, Antipodes is worthy of the cartographers and explorers whom the author both debunks and admires.
— Martin Thomas, Australian National University
This remarkable book is about an imaginary place: Terra Australis Incognita, the Unknown Southern Land. Avan Judd Stallard tells the story of a geographical obsession and how it developed in the Western imagination. He shows how imagined geography or cosmography and actual geography met and interacted, and just how long it took empirical fact to win out over wishful thinking. People wanted the southern continent to be there so badly that they simply bent and twisted the existing facts until they fitted in with the prevailing cosmography. It was drawn on maps as if it existed and merely needed to be found. Explorers went looking for it as if it were an established fact. This is an informative and entertaining mixture of geography, history and epistemology, at once academically rigorous and approachable. It is also about the history of ideas and how ideas interact with reality. It is lavishly illustrated with numerous wonderful and obscure maps, and will appeal to readers with an interest in geography and old maps, as much as those fascinated by the history of exploration and the great journeys of discovery. This book is a visual and intellectual feast.
— Dave Martus, Books+Publishing
Antipodes: In Search of the Southern Continent is a new history of an ancient geography. It reassesses the evidence for why Europeans believed a massive southern continent existed, and why they advocated for its discovery. When ships were equal to ambitions, explorers set out to find and claim Terra Australis – said to be as large, rich and varied as all the northern lands combined.
Antipodes charts these voyages – voyages both through the imagination and across the High Seas – in pursuit of the mythical Terra Australis. In doing so, the question is asked: how could so many fail to see the realities they encountered? And how is it a mythical land held the gaze of an era famed for breaking free the shackles of superstition?
That Terra Australis did not exist didn’t stop explorers pursuing the continent to its Antarctic obsolescence, unwilling to abandon the promise of such a rich and magnificent land till it was stripped of every ounce of value it had ever promised. In the process, the southern continent – an imaginary land – became one of the shaping forces of early modern history.
About the Author
Avan Judd Stallard earned a PhD in history from the University of Queensland in 2011. As a historian he is concerned with both the messy detail of what happened in the past and how historians “do” history. He sees great benefit in big picture history and the synthesis of existing corpuses of knowledge. Stallard’s interests in diverse fields (e.g., philosophy, psychology, biological sciences, philology) is underpinned by an abiding interest in method and epistemology – how we get to knowledge and what we purport to do with it. He is a proponent of greater consilience between the sciences and humanities.
When not moonlighting as a historian, Stallard is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction. He also works as an editor. He lives with his wife and dog, Javier.
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