13 July 2014

55th Annual Meeting of the Society for the History of Discoveries

Preliminary information of the 55th Annual Meeting of the Society for the History of Discoveries  to be held 30 October - 2 November 2014 in Austin, Texas is available at: http://www.sochistdisc.org/2014_annual_meeting.htm  

More information will be posted in the coming months.

17 May 2014

The wreck of Columbus's flagship found?

The anchor of the Santa María now rests in the
Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Underwater archaeologist Barry Clifford has recently announced the discovery of what he believes is the Santa María, Christopher Columbus's flagship from his epochal 1492 expedition.  Clifford and his team found the debris from the wreckage off the northern coast of Haiti, near Cap-Haïtien.

The ship was wrecked on Christmas Eve, 1492, and sank the next day, after a cabin boy was allowed to steer because all the other sailors were asleep from the festivities of the day.  Columbus ordered the deck timbers salvaged to create the first European settlement in the Caribbean, named La Navidad ("Christmas").  Archaeological evidence has located La Navidad nearby.

Clifford believes the remains of the Santa María are lodged on a coral reef about ten to fifteen feet below the water's surface.  Photos of the site in 2003 show a lombard canon, which Clifford avers has now been looted from the site.  Clifford says that, "All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus' famous flagship, the Santa Maria."

Laurence Bergreen, author of Columbus: The Four Voyages, is more skeptical.  He wonders how much of the ship would remain, given its age, the influence of earthquakes and hurricanes, and that most of the wood from the ship was used for La Navidad (and want was not used for lumber, he believes, would have rotted away).  Bergreen also comments on the lombard canon from 2003 have disappeared: "But now the lombards, if that's what they were, are gone. There's not much left to go on."

Clifford has tried to interest the Haitian government in protecting and excavating the site.  He said, "The Haitian government has been extremely helpful–and we now need to continue working with them to carry out a detailed archaeological excavation of the wreck."  Bergreen agrees that more investigation is needed: "Given its potential historic significance, let's hope this wreck will finally receive the careful and responsible attention it deserves."


15 April 2014

Women, exploration and discovery: Special panel/issue to be published in Terrae Incognitae

Ida Laura Pfeiffer (1797-1858),
an Austrian explorer and author.
Proposals are being sought for a panel dedicated to women explorers, travelers, cartographers, etc., who contributed to or participated in the exploration and discovery of our world, its lands and oceans, at the 2014 annual meeting of the Society for the History of Discoveries (October 30-November 2, 2014, in Austin, Texas).  Peer-reviewed, article-length submissions will be published in a special issue of Terrae Incognitae, vol. 48.1.

Three-hundred-word proposals accompanied by a brief biographical abstract should be received by May 15, 2014, via email to Dr. Lauren Beck (lbeck@mta.ca).  Ideally contributors will both present their research and see it published in the journal, but if this is not possible, please email the editor for further information.

11 April 2014

The Hidden World of Women Cartographers

In Map Worlds: A History of Women in Cartography, author Will C. Van Den Hoonaard suggests the thirteenth-century Ebstorf mappa mundi may have been created by the nuns of the Ebstorf abbey. 
Will C. Van Den Hoonaard has written a recently published work that researches the oft-overlooked contribution of women to the history of cartography.  Titled Map Worlds: A History of Women in Cartography, printed by the Wilfrid Laurier University Press, it covers female cartographers, explorers, and geographers from the sixteenth-century till today.  It offers an intriguing take, too, on how gender may be used to interpret maps.

21 February 2014

Marginalia in cARTography

An example of map marginalia, the hard-working Niagara Falls beavers from Herman Moll's
 A New and Exact Map of the Dominions of the King of Great Britain on ye Continent of America (1715).
The Chazen Museum of Art at the University of Wisconsin–Madison is hosting an exhibit entitled "Marginalia in cARTography" from February 28 to May 18, 2014, in the Leslie and Johanna Garfield Gallery.  Marginalia in cARTography focuses on the artistic images that inhabit the edges, margins, and empty spaces on maps from the middle ages to the twentieth century.  These images, says guest curator and art historian Sandra Sáenz-López Pérez, "should be regarded not only as part of the map, but as elements that lead to a better understanding of the region mapped, of the cartographers and their collaborators, of their aesthetic sense, and of the world in which they were made."


30 January 2014

Terra Incognita to Australia

Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus by Johannes Blaeu (1659)
The National Library in Canberra is currently exhibiting a large and magnificent collection of some of the world's greatest and rarest maps under the title of "Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia."  The exhibit hosts treasures such as an eleventh-century Macrobius-style chart, a thirteenth-century Psalter map, and the fifteenth-century Fra Mauro map on the early end of the Age of Discovery, down to maps by explorers Captain James Cook and Matthew Flinders.  The exhibition, which is open until March 10, 2014, was opened in November 2013 by film star Russell Crowe, who exclaimed he was a "map geek."

Maps range from charts made by Australia's Aborigines, to sea charts, to great world maps showing Australia as blank conjectures.  Artifacts include chronometers, bowls from the Dutch East India Company, and mariner’s calipers.  Online extras for "Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia" include YouTube videos, podcasts, checklists, and interactive maps.

Head of maps at the British Library Peter Barber said: "You wouldn't get this exhibition in Europe because the institutions would never lend."  The National Library’s curator of maps, Martin Woods, gushed, "I don't know how much more excited I could be!"




21 January 2014

Does a kangaroo in 400-year-old manuscript prove the Portuguese discovered Australia?

A kangaroo in a circa 1600 sheet of processional music from Portugal?
If so, it could prove the Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach Australia.
(Source: Les Enluminures Gallery)
An illuminated manuscript recently acquired by the Les Enluminures Gallery in New York which dates to between 1580 and 1620 has a drawing in a capital letter of an animal that looks conceivably like a kangaroo (or wallaby) munching on a plant.  If it is a kangaroo, it may be persuasive evidence that the Portuguese reached Australia before the first accepted European landing there by Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon in 1606.

The manuscript, a sheet of liturgical music, also has a images of half-naked men wearing a chaplet of leaves that could be a depiction of Australian aborigines.

An Australian aboriginie?
(Source: Les Enluminures Gallery)
Laura Light, a researcher at the Les Enluminures Gallery, said that "a kangaroo or wallaby in a manuscript this early is proof that the artist of this manuscript had either been in Australia, or even more interestingly, that travellers' reports and drawings of the interesting animals found in this new world were already available in Portugal."  The theory of the Portuguese discovery of Australia has been around for at least two centuries, but still lacks definitive proof.

Dr. Martin Woods of the National Library of Australia said the kangaroo-like animal could be "another animal in south-east Asia, like any number of deer species."  Dr. Peter Pridmore of La Trobe University suggests that the animal depicted could be an aardvark.

Les Enluminures Gallery plans to display the manuscript, with many others from January 24 to February 21, 2014, in an exhibit entitled "Sacred Song: Chanting the Bible in the Middle Ages and Renaissance."

The debate about the possible European discovery of Australia before 1606 continues.