1642 The ancient Greeks first theorized the exisof a great continent in the southern region of arth that balanced the inhabited lands of the . As explorers began tracing the edges of South ica and Africa in the 15th century, the so-called ,wn southern land receded south on the maps, ever quite disappeared.
In 1642, the Dutch West Indies' governor-general iissioned Dutch navigator Abel Tasman (1603-to explore the coast of the "Great South Land," 1 had been seen, but not charted. During his /oyages, he reached the island now named ania in his honor; sailed around Australia to it was an island, though not believed large enough to be the "great southern continent"; and reached New Zealand, where he fought with fierce Maori—Polynesians who came to the islands by canoe around A.D. 1000.
Exploration took a backseat to trade during the 17th century. Tasman's sponsors viewed his journeys as failures since he didn't uncover economic wealth, even if he added a lot to the knowledge of the "great South Sea." Some 150 years later, Captain James Cook (1728-1779), commissioned by the British Admiralty, completed the job Tasman started: He claimed Australia and New Zealand for the British Crown and sailed into Antarctic waters, to the Hawaiian Islands, and along the northwest coast of North America.