Pedro Fernandez De Quiros

(1565 - 1614)

De Quiros spent many years in beseeching the King of Spain to furnish him with ships and men with which to seek this southern continent. King Phillip for a long time paid little attention to his entreaties, but was last overcome by his perserverance and told De Quiros that, though he himself had no money for such purposes, he would order the Governor of Peru to provide the necessary vessels. De Quiros carried the King's instructions to Peru and two ships were soon prepared and filled with suitable crews. But, after all his labor, he was not appointed to command them. A nobleman named Torres was placed at the head of the expedition and De Quiros was made second in command, to act as pilot or sailing captain. They set sail from Peru and had a prosperous voyage across the pacific, discovering many small islands, and being the first Europeans who ever saw or described the Coral Islands of the South Seas. In 1606, they reached a shore which stretched as far as they could see both north and south, and De Quiros thought he had discovered the Great Southern Continent. He called the place, "Terra Australis del Espiritu Santo" (Southern Land of the Holy Spirit). It is now known that this was not really a continent , but merely one of the New Hebrides Islands and more than a 1,000 miles away from the mainland. De Quiros was unlucky; for, after an agreement had been made that he should take one of the vessels and Torres the other, so that each might go to make discoveries for himself, the sailors of his ship mutinied and forced him to sail home again, without examining the shores he had discovered.  

Poor De Quiros spent the rest of his life in petitioning the King for new ships. He had failed in his first attempt but was sure that a continent, nevertheless, existed. He sent constant memorials to the Royal Court; but, as Torres asserted that there could not possibly be a continent in that part of the world, the King refused to grant his request. De Quiros died in poverty and disappointment, but he is to be honoured as the first of the long line of Australian discoverers. In later years , the name he invented was divided into two parts ; the island he had really discovered was named Espiritu Santo , while the continent he thought he had discovered was called Terra Australis. This name was shortened by another explorer (Matthew Flinders) to the present name Australia.

Interesting Facts

Pedro was also known as Pedro Fernandes de Queirós and he called himself El Capitan Pedro Fernandez de Quir.

He was born in Evora.

In 1595 he served as pilot with Alvaro de Mendana de Neira on his explorations in the south-west Pacific, where he led the only remaining ship of the expedition to Philippines.

On 21 December 1605, Quiros's party of three ships, San Pedro y Paulo, San Pedro and Los Tres Reyes, left Callao , with 300 crew and soldiers to go in search of the Great Southern Land. Remarkably not one single crew member on Quiros's ship died during the journey, a truly amazing feat in those days, as scurvy (result of lack of vitamin C) was rife amongst sailors who spent long periods at sea and could not eat fresh fruit or vegetables.


History of Australia