I’ve just had a new short paper published in the December 2012 issue of Placenames Australia, which is the excellent quarterly newsletter of the Australian National Placenames Survey [ANPS] . This organisation is supported by the different state and Commonwealth place name gazettal boards, to capture the history and meaning of the different toponyms around Australia. These provide a rich landscape archaeology of successive occupations from indigenous people to the present.
The paper is ‘Lawrence Hargrave’s Spanish Sydney’, and it is about his belief that Lope de Vega landed in Sydney in c.1595, in the ship Santa Isabel [or Ysabel], after separating from the rest of Mendana’s expedition to the Solomons Islands [Gojak 2012]. Hargrave believed that place names around Sydney and Torres Strait supported his case. According to him the Spanish named various parts of Sydney Harbour and the surrounding coast they explored, and these names were adopted by the Aborigines. Later, after the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, it was assumed that these were Aboriginal names. Hargrave annotated about two dozen of these into his evolving text for his book on Lope de Vega, added them on maps and charts and in amongst his voluminous correspondence. A further list of names was ready to hand, presumably ones for which he was still searching for an origin.
You’ll have to read the paper for the full list [download of all the ANPS Newsletters is free], but just one example shows Hargrave’s logic follow.
In 1900 heavy storm surges had eroded or stripped grassed dunes, leaving behind exposed dense beachside scatters of Aboriginal artefacts. These were written up by Etheridge and Whitelegge . A few years, in 1914, later Australia was hosting the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and a variety of excursions were offered to the delegates. One took in Kurnell, on Sydney’s southern outskirts, for a visit to Captain Cook’s landing place, and a side trip to Quibray Bay, on the Botany Bay side of the Kurnell Peninsula. At Quibray Bay one of these desne artefact scatters had been exposed. Hargrave’s copy of the conference handbook is annotated on the page describing the tour. He notes ‘quibra’ is Spanish for ‘crack’, as in Quibray is ‘the flint cracking place’. Seemingly unaware of the Etheridge and Whitelegge paper, he may have otherwise wqondered why this place was so named, when they record the same storms having exposed Aboriginal artefact scatters on many beaches all along the coastal area of Sydney, and Quibray was perhaps one of the more modest. Quiebra acloser meaning is to break or fail, rather than crack.
Hargrave didn’t speak Spanish, but did get assistance from Captain Bertram Chambers of the Royal Australian Navy. Its not clear how good Chambers’s Spanish was, but he seems to have been a speaker of the language rather than a writer or reader.
This was just another example of how Hargrave’s obsession with the inherent truth of his belief clouded his judgement, allowing him to selectively pick at different facts, and twist them until they matched his belief.
Etheridge, Robert and Thomas Whitelegge 1907
‘Aboriginal workshops on the coast of New South Wales, and their contents’, Records of the Australian Museum, vol. 6 , pp. 233-250. Available here.
Gojak, Denis 2012
‘Lawrence Hargrave’s Spanish Sydney’, Placenames Australia: the newsletter of the Australian National Placenames Survey, December 2012, pp. 3, 6-8. Available here.