Staten Landt: where the Americas meet the Antipodes

Even the most adventurous of travellers would struggle at dead reckoning Staten Landt, despite it being clearly marked on some maps, such as the Rare and Historical Maps Collection’s copy of Polus Antarctius (South Pole), one of the featured maps in the Noel Shaw Gallery's current exhibition Plotting the island: Dreams, discovery and disaster.

Staten Landt is a rather complicated place: changing in size and location on the globe. It appears sometimes as a continent near the Americas, and at others as an island attached to Australia or New Zealand. It is a newly depicted land which seems to have both emerged and became extinct in the course of the 17th century.

Polus Antarcticus was first issued in 1637 by Dutch cartographer and engraver Henricus Hondius. At a time when Europeans had not seen the underside of the globe, this circular projection proved to be so innovative and appealing that it was revised and reprinted over a period of more than 60 years. On display in the exhibition is the original version of the Hondius map, published by Jan Jansson. Jansson would later update the coastlines on this map in 1650, after the voyages of Abel Tasman in 1642 and 1644. Tasman’s voyages revealed additions to the coast of New Holland as well as parts of the coasts of both Tasmania and New Zealand, which had to be added to Dutch maps; and the title cartouche on Polus Antarcticus had to be replaced by New Zealand, for example, as the picture of the Antipodes took shape. More

Detail of the c.1641 Polus Antarctius map showing the green outline of Staten Landt.

Image: Detail of the c.1641 Polus Antarctius map showing the green outline of Staten Landt. Rare and Historic Maps Collection, University of Melbourne