Who would have thought controversy surrounds the 'Great Southland of the Holy Spirit'? Four hundred years ago sailors and explorers were the heroic adventurers of their day. Religion, rewards and reputation drove many to sail beyond the horizon into the unknown.
A much desired acquisition was 'the phantom of Terra Australis', as described by Gunter Schider, historian and cartographer. "It was felt that an undiscovered southern continent had to exist because the known land masses of the southern hemisphere were not sufficient to balance those of the northern half of the globe..." he wrote. (Australia Unveiled, Gunter Schilder,1976).
They really did believe the world needed a landmass to counterbalance the weight of the known world in the south. That assessment might seem fanciful today but in that era it was reality.
Tall tales of evil monsters in the south were told and sailors were threatened with a wide variety of mind-blowing catastrophe. There was Geruda a gigantic, monster bird waiting to pluck them right off their decks, a Kingdom of Women ready to enslave them and a vicious black hole ready to suck boat and bodies into the abyss.
Among the hail and hearty was a Portuguese navigator and explorer Pedro Ferdinand de Quiros who sailed into Australian folklore in the year 1606.
The New Jerusalem
He secured sponsorship from Pope Clement VIII and King Philip III of Spain to seek out the southern continent – Terra Australis Incognito (Unknown South Land). A letter to de Quiros from King Phillip read: "That no time be lost in discovering that Australia region so far unknown, so these people may have knowledge of the Gospel and be brought into Spiritual obedience."
De Quiros was a Catholic Jew. He searched for a year, burdened with a desire to establish a holy settlement to be called The New Jerusalem. Where and what he found has caused issue.
On the Day of Pentecost, 14th May, 1606 he declared:"Let the heavens, the earth, the waters with all their creatures, and those present, witness that I, Captain Pedro Ferdinand de Quiros...in the name of Jesus Christ... hoist this emblem of the holy cross on which His person was crucified and whereon He gave His life for the ransom and remedy of all the human race...on this day of Pentecost, 14th May....I take possession of all this part of the south as far as the pole in the name of Jesus...which from now on shall be called the southern land of the Holy Ghost...and this always and forever...and to the end that to all natives, in all the said lands, the holy and sacred evangel may be preached zealously and openly."
Reports of his discovery were contested between Catholic and Protestants. In 1901 Cardinal Moran, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney reported to the Council of the Royal Geographical Society of Australia, de Quiros 'discovered' Australia.
The Cardinal said there were six Franciscans on board and four of them were priests. He described Gladstone, Queensland as the location for a Catholic dedication service where apparently the title 'Great Southland of the Holy Spirit' was first declared. Most recognized authorities disagreed with his paper and evidence from the voyage diaries and later reports had contradictions.
An article attributed to Australian Christian History and Heritage tells a different story: "de Quiros had not discovered Terra Australis Incognita, but only the largest island in what was later known as the New Hebrides group. He had named the land after Philip III of Spain, a prince of the House of Austria, and did not derive it from Terra Australia, or the austral region featured for so long on maps."
De Quiros believed he had discovered the great southern landmass and declared it 'shall be called the Southern Land of the Holy Ghost.'
Australian historian, Manning Clark, described Quiros as: 'one of the flowers of the Catholic reformation, part of that movement of religious idealism and of missionary fervour which strengthened the church after the disasters of Luther and Calvin. He added: "They sailed west till they reached a harbour in the New Hebrides, which Quiros in the first flush of the excitement named Austrialia del Espiritu Santo - a name which, together with the errors in measuring longitude, created confusion for posterity when it plotted his voyage, and even seduced men of scholarship and learning to argue that he had landed on the east coast of Australia.'
Rev Gordon Moyes compiled a series called 'The Explorers' in which he wrote: "Fernand De Quiros was a man of faith and great missionary zeal, being firmly convinced that the Lord had chosen him to discover and bring the Gospel to "terra australis".
"From his youth he seems to have been caught up in the missionary enthusiasm of the age ... He was a gentle spirit, one of God's chosen vessels bringing the gift of his holy faith. For Quiros, all men were the adopted children of God ... He began to believe that he had been singled out by God as the vessel through whom the inhabitants of 'terra australis would be received into the church, and that 'terra australis' would be Australia del Espiritu Santo – a land dedicated to the Holy Spirit." (Article on de Quiros in Enciclopedia Italiana (1949) "The voyages of Pedro de Quiros" vol 1, pp 163-5).
Because he declared his proclamation over 'all of the South as far as the pole', Christians joyfully echo his words as we sing 'This is the great southland of the Holy Spirit.'
Christian songwriter Geoff Bullock gave us the popular anthem 'This is the Great Southland of the Holy Spirit." Steve Grace recorded it and many claimed it to be the Auatralian Christian national anthem. The song, the name, the prayer remains the dream for so many.
Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously he was radio news editor for Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, Israel.
His career started at WINTV (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ron Ross' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/ron-ross.html