The Southern Land of The Holy Ghost

Pedro Fernandez de Quiros


The Southern Land of the Holy Ghost - 14 May 1606

Pedro Fernandez de Quiros      The recent 400th anniversary (2006) of the explorations of this remarkable man should not go unnoticed, and his life and deeds are worthy of tribute. For it is to this man's 'vision splendid' that many look with longing for a hope and a future - a land dedicated to the Holy Spirit. This man was Pedro Fernandez de Quiros.

       Since ancient times, the belief had existed that there was an extensive land mass in the southern hemisphere to 'balance' that in the north. Indeed, on a map drawn at the beginning of the fifth century according to the theory of Macrobius, this 'Terra Australis' appears with the inscription 'Perus-Ta-Temperata-Antipodum Nobis Incognita'.

       Following the discovery of the Americas, various globes and maps featured the 'Southern Land', and it was this belief in the southern hemisphere that caused the kings of Spain to send expeditions in search of the reputed continent. Their motives were mixed, but can be summarised crudely as 'God, gold and glory', not necessarily in that order!

       By the early seventeenth century, the Catholic Spaniards vied with the Protestant Dutch and English, as well as the Muslims for the riches and the souls that the new land had come to represent. The missionary minded Catholics earnestly desired to win the race lest the 'heretical' Protestants arrive ahead of them.

       Manning Clark states, 'By 1580 the spread of heresy in Europe had enlivened this religious motive with a sense of urgency, for by then all true believers were tormented by the fear that the English and Dutch heretics would infect with the depravity of their apostasy countless numbers of Gentiles in the south seas.' (Clark, pp. 13-14). A number of Spanish voyages was sent west from Callao in Peru, yet most of these either lost heart in the vast number of central Pacific islands, or were driven by huge seas, winds and currents to the north.

       Into this scene stepped de Quiros. A product of the Catholic reformation, full of idealism and missionary fervour, he was born at Evora, Portugal, in 1565. In 1595, he had sailed as chief pilot with Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendana, in order to colonize the Solomon Islands, which Mendana had previously discovered. Mendana died en route, leaving de Quiros to struggle on to the Philippines.

       J.C. Beaglehole, a renowned authority on Pacific exploration, described this 'guideless voyage to the Philippines against contrary winds, in rotten ships with a starving and dying company', as 'one of the greatest feats in the record of Pacific journeyings' (in Aust. Ency. p. 337).

       De Quiros returned to Mexico, after spending eighteen months refitting in Manila. In 1600 he journeyed to Rome for inspiration, and was blessed by Pope Clement VIII. He had come to believe that he was divinely chosen as the one to bring the inhabitants of the southern land into the 'true fold' of the Catholic church, and that this 'Terra Australis' would become Austrialia del Espiritu Santo, a country dedicated to the Holy Spirit.

       De Quiros obtained royal approval to search for the southern land in 1603. After acquiring three vessels and a crew, including Luis Viez de Torres as second-in-command, he set sail for Callao, Peru on 21 December 1605. Sailing west, they sighted land after five months at sea. With great festivity and excitement, de Quiros took possession of this land in the name of His Majesty on 14 May 1606.

       His proclamation stated: - 'Let the heavens, the earth, the waters with all their creatures and all those here present witness that I, Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, in these hitherto unknown parts, in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the Eternal Father and of the Virgin Mary, God and true man, 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, being present as witnesses all the land and sea-going officers; on this Day of Pentecost, 14 May 1606.

       'In these hitherto unknown southern regions where I now am, I have come with the authorisation of the Supreme Pontiff, Clement III, and by order of our King, Philip III, King of the Spains, etc, promulgated by the Council of State, I, Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, in the name of the Most Holy Trinity take possession of all the islands and lands that I have newly discovered and shall discover as far as the pole.

       'I take possession of all this part of the South as far as the pole in the name of Jesus. I take possession of all this part of the South as far as the pole in the name of St Francis and in the name of all his Order and members of it... I take possession of all this part of the South as far as the pole in the name of John of God and all the professed members of his Order...

       'Finally, from this Bay of St Philip and St James and its port of Vera Cruz and from the place where the city to be known as the New Jerusalem is to be founded, in this latitude of full 15-1/3 degrees, and of all the lands that I have seen and I am seeing of all this part of the South as far as the pole.

       'Which from now on shall be called the Southern Land of the Holy Ghost, with all its annexes and dependencies, and this always and forever, in the name of King Philip III, who bears the cost and expense of this fleet with which I came to discover the said lands, on whose power and will shall depend the foundation, government and maintenance of all that is sought both temporally and spiritually for these lands and their peoples, in whose name these flags are flown and I hoist this his royal standard, in the presence as witnesses of the commander, Luis Baez de Torres, and hoist his royal standard and the other flags, being further witnesses on this Feast of Pentecost, and on the said day, month and year.'

       However, 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.

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