The Murillo Bulletin Issue No. 5

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The Murillo Bulletin Journal of PHIMCOS The Philippine Map Collectors Society

Issue No. 5

December 2017

In this Issue: 

Glimpses of Laguna’s History  The Charting of Tubbataha  Alexander Dalrymple and the Solomon Islands 

The Murillo Bulletin Issue No. 5

December 2017 In this Issue

PHIMCOS News & Events

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Glimpses of Laguna’s History from 900 A.D. by Emmanuel A. Ticzon


The Charting of Tubbataha by Peter Geldart


Bungling Geographers: Dalrymple, New Britain and the Solomon Islands by Richard T. Jackson


PHIMCOS Directors, Members & Committees


About PHIMCOS The Philippine Map Collectors Society (PHIMCOS) was established in 2007 in Manila as the first club for collectors of antique maps and prints in the Philippines. Membership of the society, which has grown to a current total of 40 members (including individual, joint and corporate members), is open to anyone interested in collecting maps, historical prints, paintings, and old photographs of the Philippines. PHIMCOS holds quarterly general meetings at which members and their guests discuss cartographic news and give after-dinner presentations on topics such as maps of particular interest, famous cartographers, the history of the charting of regions of the Philippines, or the lives of prominent Filipino historians. A major focus for PHIMCOS is the sponsorship of exhibitions, lectures and other educational events designed to educate the public about the importance of cartography as a way of learning both the geography and the history of the Philippines. PHIMCOS welcomes new members. The fee for an Individual Membership is Php.6,000 per annum; for Joint Memberships (for two people) and Corporate Memberships (with two nominees) the fee is Php.10,000 per annum. Members and guests who attend general meetings also pay a contribution towards the cost of dinner and drinks of Php.1,200 per member and Php.1,500 per guest. The application form and additional information on PHIMCOS are available on our website .

Front Cover: Carta particolare dell’Isole Filipine è di Luzon … d’Asia Carta X by Robert Dudley, from Dell' Arcano Del Mare, Florence, 1646 (collection of Rudolf J. H. Lietz, Gallery of Prints) 1


PHIMCOS News & Events


T THE third PHIMCOS general meeting of the year, held on 23 August, 2017, the record number of 24 members and 17 guests in attendance were treated to a lively evening, with a series of presentations. Following the introduction of new members and guests, committee reports and announcement of future exhibitions and events, the first presentation was given by Lisa Periquet on the subject “The Collecting Life of Alfonso T. Ongpin”. Alfonso Ongpin owned the largest and most significant collection of Philippine paintings before the Second World War, exceeding other private and government holdings. Until the mid-1950s, his home in Quiapo, Manila was a veritable museum whose walls were lined with the works of 19th century Philippine masters such as Juan Luna, Félix Resurrección Hidalgo and Damian Domingo, as well as artists of the moment including the Amorsolo brothers Fernando and Pablo, Fabian de la Rosa, Jorge Pineda, and many others. As well as being a passionate art collector, talented photographer, picture framer, and restorer, Alfonso Ongpin amassed a significant collection of first editions, photographs, original documents and personal possessions pertaining to José Rizal. He also painstakingly compiled albums of photographs, newspaper clippings, correspondence and documents relating to his interests. The presentation expounded on his lifelong work documenting and preserving Philippine art, culture and history, and will be a featured article in the next issue of this journal.

(From left) Vince Pérez, Marvi Trudeau, Marissa Floirendo, Tet Lara, Jimmie González, Angelique Songco, Peter Geldart and Yvette Lee

The second presentation, given by Peter Geldart on “The Charting of Tubbataha” (see article on page 11), was an introduction to the highlight of the evening: a series of three presentations on the Tubbataha Reefs (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) given by Marissa Floirendo, the publisher of Tubbataha, A National Treasure; Ma. Teresa “Tet” Lara, the book’s photographer; and Angelique Songco, Superintendent of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park; with the support of Teri Aquino, Tubbataha’s Resident Scientist; Yvette Lee, VP for dive boat operations at Discovery Fleet Philippines; and Marvi Trudeau, program manager for Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. (a major benefactor of the Tubbataha Management Office). The presentations provided a comprehensive view of the Tubbataha reefs’ history, biological diversity, economic value, beauty, strengths and vulnerabilities. The recently-published coffeetable book Tubbataha, A National Treasure (shown at left) contains stunning photographs of the reefs; the corals, fish, and other marine life that inhabit them; the colonies of rare birds; and the Marine Park Rangers from the Philippine Coast Guard, Navy and Marines who protect Tubbataha. Tet Lara’s photographs are currently featured in the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, and quite a few copies of this magnificent book, (which has nearly sold out its first edition) were purchased by PHIMCOS members.


The last meeting of the year, with 26 members and 13 guests present, was on 24 October, 2017. After the customary introductions and reports, Jimmy Laya and Alfredo Roca gave a presentation on “Intramuros After the 1863 Earthquake”, Illustrated with many contemporary photographs and details from a map by Agustin de la Cavada published in 1870. This was followed by “The Charting of Palawan” by Vince Perez, a lively and comprehensive talk on the cartographic history of the island from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Both of these presentations will be published as articles in future issues of The Murillo Bulletin. To wrap up another busy and entertaining evening, Ritchie Quirino showed a 30-minute documentary on his father, the biographer, historian and author of Philippine Cartography, Carlos Quirino, who was recognised as a National Artist of the Philippines. After the video, Ritchie talked about his personal reminiscences and family anecdotes.    At the earlier meeting Rolf Lietz, as the Representative for the Philippines of the International Map Collectors Society (IMCoS), announced that Manila has been given the honour of being selected as the primary venue for the prestigious 36th IMCoS International Symposium.


At the second meeting Mr Lietz confirmed that the symposium, titled “Insulae Indiae Orientalis Through European Perspective”, will be held at the Ayala Museum from 14th to 17th October, 2018. Events will include an opening cocktail reception; morning lectures by local and international speakers; an exhibition of maps relating to the themes of the symposium and the talks; afternoon visits to local museum and library collections; a gala dinner; and optional tours around Manila and the Philippines. After Manila, the second part of the 36th IMCoS International Symposium will continue in Hong Kong, to be held at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum from 18th to 20th October. PHIMCOS has set up a committee to coordinate the organisation of the Society’s contributions to the symposium with Mr Lietz’s logistics team, comprising Dr. Jaime Laya (Chairman), Rolf Lietz (Convenor), Marga Binamira, Nito Cacho, Peter Geldart, Jimmie González, Elizabeth Lietz, Albert Montilla, Vince Pérez, and Lisa Periquet. Additional details will be made available at the website: .    The PHIMCOS Roving Exhibition continued its journey through the Visayas and was unveiled on 25 August, 2017 at Anthropology Museum of Silliman University in Dumaguete by the Dean, Dr. Earl Jude Cleope.

Glimpses of Laguna’s History from 900 A.D. by Emmanuel A. Ticzon


N 1521 the first “civilized” Europeans arrived in the Philippines, but my intention in this article is to make the reader aware of the civilization that existed in my native land much earlier. During the country’s pre-Hispanic period, the name of the area of which the present-day province of Laguna is part was Bae. The name is borrowed from the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, then known to the people of Maynila as “Lawa”, “Dagatan ng Bae” or “Pulilan”. Bae means “noble lady”, in allusion to the high status in which pre-Hispanic women in the area were held. After 1571, the Spanish government named the lake “Laguna de Bay” and its southeastern shore area as “La Provincia de la Laguna de Bay”. In 1898, after the Philippines became a territory of the United States, the American government renamed the lake “Laguna Lake” and the province “Laguna”. From another viewpoint, Bae was part of the Tagalog world, bounded by the Sierra Madre Mountains to the east, the China Sea to the west, Bicol to the south, and Pampanga to the north. This area, on the island of Luzon, was called “Ma’I” by the Chinese; its people were Tagalogs and its language Tagalog. Pailah in Bae Pailah is the pre-Hispanic name of Pila, Laguna, the town on the shore of the “Lawa ng Bae” in which trading occurred for onward transfer to Tundo and Maynila.(1) Pailah, according to the historian Dr. Luciano P.R. Santiago,(2)(3) was on the southern gold trail stemming from the mines of Paracale. The gold was transported for processing to nearby Libon, Albay; taken northwards by land and waterway via Tayabas, Quezon, to Pailah; and then onward to Maynila and Tundun, where it would be loaded onto vessels bound for elsewhere in Ma’I, China, Malacca, Borneo, or other islands.

Most probably as a result of this trading activity, Pailah’s community grew during the preHispanic period. Its leader was not only the local chief, but also the regional datu. The bards of the shore towns of the Morong Peninsula, across the lake from Pailah, sang of the exploits of Gat Salyan Maguinto, the “gold-rich” datu of Pailah who extended his lordship to neighboring settlements. Foreign merchants, who were mostly Chinese, were attracted to the thermal and medicinal springs of Mainit (meaning “warm water,” now Los Baños). These traders used Pailah as their entry point to Bae from the start of the second millennium A.D. They could rest and relax at Mainit, whilst waiting eight to nine months for their native customers to return and pay for their merchandise. Before its current location, Pailah was moved twice. Around 1375, most probably because of flooding, the original seat at Pinagbayan had to be abandoned and the community transferred to Pagalangan (now Victoria, Laguna) which means “the place of reverence”. The Franciscan chronicler Fray Juan de Plasencia (4) gathered that the datu of Pailah used his own gold to purchase the new site from another chief. The datu then distributed the arable land among his nobles and freemen who, in return, paid him an annual rent of a hundred ganta of rice.

Detail of the Province of Laguna from the Atlas de Filipinas by Padre José Maria Algué (1899) 5

Pailah’s second move, to its present site – the hacienda owned by Don Felizardo, Miguel and Rafael de Rivera, at Barangay Santa Clara, overlooking Pagalangan – began on 13 July 1803. The continuous quarrying of Pailah’s famous adobe stone, along with progressive siltation and sedimentation, caused the homes at Pagalanan to be submerged by the rising water levels of Laguna de Bay caused by heavy rains.

Dr. Antoon Postma, a Dutch anthropologist living in the Philippines, has studied the plate and named it the Laguna Copper-Plate Inscription.(6) With the help of Dr. Johann de Casparis, an expert on ancient Indonesian writing scripts, Dr. Postma discovered that it was related to one of these scripts, Kavi. The copper plate uses the old Hindu calendar, reflecting the strong influence of Hindu culture over Southeast Asia at that time.

The Laguna Copper-Plate Inscription

The script – which is basically composed of Old Malay (the then language of regional trade) with adapted words derived from Sanskrit – reflects the interaction by the Tagalogs with other Asian civilizations.

In the 1960s, the archaeological recovery of Song Dynasty Chinese porcelain in Pailah, including vibrant figurines and scholar’s tools (such as miniature pouring vessels, brush washers, and the writing instruments used in calligraphy), gave credence to the town’s preHispanic trading activities.

As Dr. Postma has commented, the copper plate seems to be a semi-official certificate of acquittal of a debt, being a substantial amount of gold, incurred by an individual, which clears him and his whole family, relatives and descendants of the debt. The tenth line of the copper plate ends in mid-sentence, from which Dr. Postma infers that another copper plate completed the inscription. Dr. Postma has translated the inscription as follows:

The Laguna Copper-Plate Inscription (Photograph by Dr. Antoon Postma)

Then, in 1989, a thin, crumpled and blackened piece of metal, measuring 20 cm by 30 cm, was found in the Lumbang River in Laguna.(5) It was covered on one side with ten lines of finely written characters. The plate, made of copper, bears a date, deciphered by Hector Santos in 1996 as Monday, 21 April 900 A.D. The Laguna copper plate, the oldest document of the Tagalogs to have been discovered, proves that Pailah existed prior to the 10th century. Dr. Santiago has observed that this plate “….cites the town of ‘Pailah’ twice and ‘Puliran’, which almost certainly refer to Pila and Pulilan, respectively…”. Pailah accordingly has more significance for the pre-Hispanic history of the province than any other major municipality in present-day Laguna, and exploring the area archaeologically may reveal new discoveries.


Hail! In the Saka-year 822; the month of MarchApril; according to the astronomer: the fourth day of the dark half of the moon; on / Monday. At that time, Lady Angkatan together with her relative, Bukah by name, / the child of His Honor Namwran, was given, as a special favor, a document of full acquittal, by the Chief and Commander of Tundun / representing the leader of Pailah Jayadewa. This means that His Honor Namwran, through the Honourable Scribe / was totally cleared of a salary-related debt of 1 kati and 8 suwarna ( weight in gold), in the presence of His Honor the leader of Puliran, / Kasmuran; His Honor, the Leader of Pailah, representing Ganasokti; (and) His Honor the Leader / of Binwagan, representing Bisruta. And, with his whole family, on orders of the Chief of Dewata / representing the Chief of Mdang; because of his loyalty as a subject (slave?) of the Chief, therefore all descendants / of His Honor Namwran have been cleared of the whole debt that His Honor owed the Chief of Diwata. This [document] is [issued] in case / there is someone, whosoever, sometime in the future, who will state that the debt is not yet acquitted of his Honor …

Tagalog Trading with China Trade with traders from Fujian – called sanglays by the Tagalogs – resulted in records being kept in Chinese archives and the development of maps of the trade routes to Ma’I. These documents permit us to have glimpses of Ma’I and its inhabitants. Go Bon Juan comments that these findings support the view that Bae is in Ma’I and, by analogy, that the records of Ma’I are applicable to Bae. (7) Foreign trade in luxury goods between Ma’I and China in 971 A.D. was first documented in Volume 186 of the Song Shi (“History of Song”), commissioned in 1343 as one of the official Chinese works (known as the “Twenty-Four Histories of China”) that record the history of the Song dynasty.(8) W.H. Scott, a historian of the Philippines in pre-Hispanic times, describes the entry on Ma’I as "the first positive reference to political states in or near the Philippines”.(9)

In order to trade, the savage traders are assembled, and have the goods carried in baskets, and although the bearers are often unknown, none of the goods are ever lost or stolen. The savage traders transport these goods to other islands, and thus eight or nine months pass until they have obtained other goods of value equivalent to those that have been received [from the Chinese]. This forces the traders of the vessel to delay their departure, and hence it happens that the vessels that maintain trade with Ma-yi are the ones that take the longest to return to their country … .

This trade is further confirmed by the Selden Map, which dates from the early 17th century and is the only known Ming dynasty Chinese nautical chart. The map shows the trading routes of junks from the ports of southern Fujian to Ma’I and other parts of southeast Asia.(11) These trading routes would have been difficult to document if there were no earlier records in China. Surprisingly, legal trading with Ma’I is thought to have begun only in the second half of the 16th century, after the Ming Emperor Longqing (ruled 1567-72) approved the routes as a result of the repeated pleas of the Governor of Fujian and the Grand Censor Tu Zemin.(12)

In the 13th century, three centuries before Ferdinand Magellan reached the Philippines in 1521, the Chu-fan-chih (“A Description of Barbarous People” Detail from the Selden Map c1620 or, more diplomatically, (image ©Bodleian Library “The Records of Foreign University of Oxford 2017) Nations”) was written by Chao Ju-kua, a court official in Fujian. The Tagalogs This work, which is known to contain more The Chu-fan-chih described the 13th Century geographical records than the official Chinese inhabitants of Ma’I in the following way: court records, contains the following section about trade with Ma’I (from the annotated About one thousand families inhabit the shores of translation):(10) When [Chinese] merchantmen arrive at that port they cast anchor at a place [called] the place of Mandarins. That place serves them as a market, or site where the products of their countries are exchanged. When a vessel has entered into the port [its captain] offers presents consisting of white parasols and umbrellas which serve them for daily use. The traders are obliged to observe these civilities in order to be able to count on the favor of those gentlemen.

a river which has many windings. The natives dress in linen, wearing clothes that look like sheets; or they cover their bodies with sarongs. In the thick woods are scattered bronze statues of Buddha, but no one can tell the origin of those statues.(13)

Like others beyond China’s borders, the natives of Ma’I were categorized by the Chinese as either barbarians or savages. But the people foreign traders found in Ma’I were neither barbarians nor savages. 7

In the 16th century, the Boxer Codex recorded what the Spaniards found, as follows: (14) The Tagalogs grouped themselves and settled their towns in swampy lands and along riverbanks because they were accustomed to bathing twice a day. They had no king among them, no one to administer justice nor a government bureaucracy. There were three or four chiefs in each town depending on its size. They entertained themselves with drinking feasts and cockfighting. The Tagalogs were a reasonable, orderly, harmonious, lively and ingenious group who were keenly profit oriented and cunning merchants. They bargained and traded with each other to maximize earnings. They were carpenters, blacksmiths, jewelers, and other artisans who made small brass canons, which the Spaniards found. They had an alphabet, the baybayin, which was ultimately derived from ancient India. They communicated in writing and counted the year by moons and from one harvest to another. There existed a three class social structure. The ruling class was called maginoo, including datus, who were the heads of the barangays and their supporters were tinawa or maharlika. Below them were the alipin – slaves, bondsmen or debt peons. But since a significant difference existed between the alipins, Fray Juan de Plasencia in 1589 classified the serflike householding slaves as alipin sa namamahay, and the more lowly domestic slaves as alipin sa gigilid.

They were not Moslems but followed some rites of the Muhammad like circumcision, abstinence from pork and other minor laws due to the influence of traders from the island of Borneo. They also had minor gods whom they serve them for different purposes. These gods were created by their ancestors for their needs. There were: Lakanbakod, the god of the fruits of the earth for good harvest; Uwinan San for their protection from harm; Lakan-pati for water for their fields and for a rewarding fish harvest; Haik for protection from storms and squalls when traveling on the sea. They considered as gods their Grandparents, who are in the air always looking over them. They attribute any illness that they suffer as being inflicted or lifted by their grandparents. They adored the New Moon on the first day and asked for favors – some for much gold, rice, a beautiful wife, a gentlemanly husband, good health and a long life. They have always had and acknowledge the concept that they have a soul, which upon death, goes to a certain place that some call casanaan and others maca.

Other Chinese Records of Ma’I Civilization

Upper class Tagalog men and women wore much gold jewelry. They wore many golden chains around their necks because these are what they value most. Both male and female wore bracelets. The men also wore the upavita (a necklace connected to the arm) and from the calf of the knees many chainlets which they call bitiques. All men considered bitiques as stylish since the poor wore brass ones.

Besides trade, the Chinese used maps of the world (centered on China) as a means of asserting the emperor’s territorial claims and management of foreign peoples. As he ruled “all under Heaven”, even the barbarians were the emperor’s subjects. From this Sino-centric assumption of universal overlordship, additional information about Ma’I may be found, for example, from the existing Chinese world maps dating from the 11th century onwards, as they have more commentaries than do Western maps.

All the Tagalogs were superstitious pagans who believed that the earth, the sky and everything therein was created and made by one God, which they called Bathala ng mag kapangyarihan sa lahat, which means God the creator and preserver of all things. They called him by the other name of Malayari. Their ancestors learned about this god from some male prophets whose names they no longer know because they have neither writings nor those to teach them.

One of the earliest such maps, The General Map of Chinese and Barbarian Territories, Past and Present, dated 1136, is in Xian, China and has been analyzed by two scholars.(15)(16) Their work on this map and other works may help us to know more about pre-Hispanic Ma’I, and it is my hope that this commentary will act as a springboard to encourage others to undertake further research on the pre-Hispanic history of my country.


Watercolour of Majayjay, Laguna in 1859 by Charles W. Andrews (courtesy of Wattis Fine Art)

Sources & References (1)

C.O. Valdes, Treasures of Pila, Pila Historical Society, Pila, Laguna (2008).


Dr. Luciano P.R. Santiago, The Roots of Pila, Laguna: A Secular and Spiritual History of the Town (900 AD to the Present), Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society Vol. 25, No. 3/4, University of San Carlos Publications (1997).


Dr. Luciano P.R. Santiago, Ancient Pila: From Pailah in Pinagbayan to Pagalangan, Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society Vol. 38, No. 1, University of San Carlos Publications (2010).


Fray Juan de Plasencia, Relacion de las costumbres que los yndios solian tener en estas yslas, Nagcarlang (1589).


Lucban Historical & Heritage Conservation Society, The Laguna Copperplate Inscription (LCI) (2013).


Antoon Postma, The Laguna Copper-Plate Inscription:Text and Commentary, Philippine Studies Vol. 40, No. 2, Ateneo de Manila University (1992).


Go Bon Juan, Ma’I in Chinese Records- Mindoro or Bai? An Examination of a Historical Puzzle, Philippine Studies Vol. 53, No. 1, Ateneo de Manila University (2005).


Zhu Ruixin, Zhang Bangwei, Liu Fusheng, Cai Chongbang & Wang Zengyu, A Social History of Middle-Period China: The Song, Liao, Western Xia and Jin Dynasties, Cambridge University Press (2017).


William Henry Scott, Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History, New Day Publishers (1984).

(10) Friedrich Hirth & William Woodville Rockhill, Chau Ju-Kua: His Work on the Chinese and Arab trade in the twelfth and thirteenth Centuries, entitled Chu-fan-chï, Imperial Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg (1911). (11) Robert Batchelor, Viewing the East Asian Archipelago through the Selden Map, Mapping Ming China’s Maritime World, Hong Kong Maritime Museum, Chung Hwa Book Co. (2015). (12) James K. Chin, The Selden Map and the Hokkien maritime trade in late Ming, Mapping Ming China’s Maritime World, Hong Kong Maritime Museum, Chung Hwa Book Co. (2015). (13) The Kahimyang Project, The country Ma-yi - Chao Ju-kua's pre-Spanish description of the Philippines (2012). (14) Boxer Codex: A Modern Spanish Transcription and English Translation of Early Exploration Accounts of Ancient East and Southeast Asia, transcribed and annotated by Isaac Jimenez Donoso, translated by Ma. Luisa Garcia, Carlos Quirino and Mauro Garcia, Vibal Foundation (2016). (15) Richard J Smith, Mapping China’s World: Cultural Cartography in Late Imperial Times, Center for Chinese Studies, Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California (1996). (16) Laura Hostetler, Qing Colonial Enterprise: Ethnography and Cartography in Early Modern China, University of Chicago Press (2001).


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The Charting of Tubbataha by Peter Geldart


N THE Philippines, within the Coral Triangle of Southeast Asia, lies the Sulu Sea; and at the heart of the Sulu Sea, in the province of Palawan,(1) lies the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.(2) As an exceptional marine reserve and bird sanctuary, revered by ornithologists, marine biologists, coral reef conservationists, and scuba divers alike, in 1993 Tubbataha was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and in 2010 the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas chose Tubbataha to illustrate the reverse of the largest, Php.1,000 denomination of its New Generation Currency series.

However, there is an 18th century Spanish chart that does show a reef, with the name Bajo de Quesada, in the correct location. In 1752-53 Governor-General Francisco José de Ovando sent an armada under Don Antonio Faveau y Quesada (one of his two fleet commanders) to the Visayas and Palawan as a punitive expedition against the piracy and slave-trading of the indigenous Camucones, Maguindanaos, Malanos and Joloans, and the fierce Tirones or Tidongs from Borneo; but “the Moros reacted with fury”, repulsed Faveau's expedition, and captured the galera Santa Rita and a falua.(3)

The reverse of all of the banknotes in the new series features a map of the Philippines, and on the Php.1,000 note Tubbataha’s position is indicated thereon by a large dot. Unfortunately, the location shown is, in fact, some 260 kms to the southwest of the reef’s true position (at 8o57′12”N, 119o52’03”E); but, as we shall see, this was by no means the first time that Tubbataha has been cartographically misplaced.

Although the original manuscript chart of the expedition appears to have been lost, it is known from a copy acquired by the French cartographer J.B.N.D. d’Après de Mannevillette and published in 1781 by Alexander Dalrymple.(4) From this chart it appears that Quesada was the first European navigator to find, record and name Tubbataha.

The first appearance of Tubbataha on a map may have been in the 17th century, when Sir Robert Dudley published the magnificent, detailed Dell' Arcano Del Mare, the first seaatlas of the whole world. The atlas includes a chart of southern Luzon, the Visayas and northern Mindanao titled Carta particolare dell’Isole Filipine è di Luzon … d’Asia Carta X (Florence, 1646) (see front cover); and right in the bottom-left corner this chart depicts a reef, located to the west of Mindanao, that is not named – but could well be Tubbataha. The two great early-18th century Spanish maps of the Philippines are the Carta Chorographica del Archipielago de las Islas Philipinas by Francisco Diaz Romero and Antonio Ghandia (Madrid, 1727), and the Carta Hydrographica y Chorographica delas Yslas Filipinas by Pedro Murillo Velarde (Manila, 1734). These show the Cagayanes islands, the Caueli islands, and some un-named islands and bajos to the southwest of Mindanao, but neither chart names Tubbataha or shows a reef in the right location.

Detail from Alexander Dalrymple’s Chart of Faveau’s Voyage … Carta Plana Particular de El Viage que hizo La Armada despachadael Ano 1753

Alexander Dalrymple, who became the hydrographer of the British East India Company (EIC) and subsequently the first Hydrographer of the British Admiralty, made three voyages to the Philippines between 1759 and 1764, during which he undertook detailed surveys of the Sulu Sea, and of the coasts of Mindanao and Palawan. In 1769, Dalrymple published A Map of part of Borneo, and The Sooloo Archipelago: Laid down chiefly from Observations made in 1761, 2, 3, and 4; and the first state of this chart shows “Toob Bataha part dry at low Water”, with “Rocks as large as Boats”. 11

continued to use the name of its “discoverer”. In both the chart produced by Felipe Bauzá from the Malaspina Expedition,(9) and the derivative Carta Esferica y Plano Topografico de las Yslas Filipinas by Ildefonso de Aragón (Madrid, 1820), the reef is shown and designated as the “Baxo de Quesada”, and the “Big Rocks” are shown as the Isla San Miguel. Detail from the first state of Alexander Dalrymple’s A Map of part of Borneo, and The Sooloo Archipelago, published in 1769

The name of the reef is from the Sama-Bajau / Samal words tubba and taha, meaning "a long reef exposed at low tide“. In making his charts, Dalrymple relied in part on maps from indigenous navigators, including “sketches I received from the Sooloos” and, notably, “the information of Bahatol an intelligent old Pilot” who was said to be 90 years old. On later states of this chart Dalrymple removed Toob Bataha, probably because he was not sure of its exact location, and it does not appear on the French edition (published by d’Après de Mannevillette in 1775); but Toob Bataha is shown on both the original and the French editions of Dalrymple’s A Chart of the China Sea.(5)

Detail from A New Chart of the Sooloo Archipelago by William Heather / J.W. Norie (1807) 1820

Towards the end of the 18th century British merchant ships sailing to Asia began to rely on the so-called “blueback” charts produced by commercial chart publishers in London. Tubbataha appears regularly (if not always accurately) on these charts, with various spellings and descriptions, for example: “Tubbataha Shoal, with Big Rocks” (6); a reef with no name but “Coral Rocks” and “Rocks as Big as a Boats (sic) bottom up”(7); and “Toob Bataha partly dry at Low Water”.(8) While the English chartmakers were calling Tubbataha by its native name, the Spanish maps 12

Meanwhile, in 1810 James Horsburgh had succeeded Dalrymple as the EIC’s hydrographer, and he was soon busy compiling accurate charts of the eastern seas based on the surveys of Lieutenant Daniel Ross and other surveyors of the EIC’s Bombay Marine. Horsburgh’s chart China Sea Sheet I, published in 1821, was the first to provide detailed surveys of the Spratly Islands; but “Toob Bataha” is still shown only as an outline reef, well to the southwest of Cavilli Island. However, on a later (1846) edition of the chart the words “Said not to be here” have been added below the name; and further north (within the compass rose) the outline of the reef is repeated, with the words “Probable position of Toob Bataha”. From 1850 to 1854 Commander William Thornton Bate of the Royal Navy circumnavigated Palawan to conduct a detailed survey for the Admiralty; but his chart of Palawan,(10) published in 1856, still shows only “Tub Bataha parts dry at low water” and “Rocks as large as boats”, with the designation “P.D.” for “position doubtful”. This depiction of the reef remains the same on other mid-19th century charts, including the chart produced by the United States Exploring Expedition commanded by U.S. Navy Lieutenant Charles Wilkes in 1838-42;(11) British Admiralty charts; the blueback charts published by John Imray in his series of charts of the Western Route to China and the Eastern Passages to China and Japan; and, as “Baço Quesada ó Tub Bataha”, the charts of the Spanish Dirección de Hidrografía. The uncertainty concerning the true location of Tubbataha persisted for decades; an Imray chart of 1884 shows “Quesada or Tub Bataha (Believed not to exist)” in the old position, and so does the Admiralty chart (no. 943) Philippine Islands … From the Molucca Passage to Manila of 1869 (with corrections to 1887); but these charts also show “Tub Bataha” in its correct position, and in greater detail, thanks to the surveys of HMS Nassau.

the uprights of a hut. There was apparently a channel through the reef about 5 miles north of the SW islet, but we had not time to examine it thoroughly. The SW islet is the next in height to the NE one, being from 8 to 10 feet above the sea with the trunk of a very large tree embedded in the sand on the NE face of it. Both of these islets were teeming with sea fowl, numbers of them flying round the ship before the land was sighted.” On page 35 there is a separate entry for the phantom “South Tub Bataha”: “The centre of which was supposed to be Lat 8⁰.04’ N and Long 119⁰.50’ E does not exist, the Nassau having sounded out this position ● with 180 and 6 miles of that obtained bottom in 1878 fms (pale yellow sand) at noon with very good observations. As it was a very clear day and a good look out kept from the masthead there is no doubt but what this has been misplaced on the Charts.” Detail from British Admiralty chart no. 943 Philippine Islands … From the Molucca Passage to Manila (1869 with corrections to 1887)

HMS Nassau, a Royal Navy gun vessel launched in 1866 as a surveying ship, surveyed the Sulu Sea in 1871-72 under Commander William Chimmo, but “had to withdraw because of hostilities between Spain and the Sultan of Sulu”.(12) As a result of HMS Nassau’s surveys, which were published as Admiralty charts nos. 927, 928 and 929 in 1873, the Admiralty was able to show Tubbataha and the surrounding reefs accurately, and in the correct position. The ship’s original, manuscript survey book is preserved in the archives of the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office in Taunton.(13) The entry for “Tub Bataha” (on page 31) reads: “This dangerous series of reefs, the northernmost of which is in Lat 8⁰.53’.48” N Long 120⁰.0’.45” E runs from this position SW about 15 miles. It consists of small islets, sand cays and dark boulders as large as boats all connected by a ridge of sand and fringed with coral reefs which are steep [to]. The NE islet is the highest being about 15 feet above the sea with a tuft of verdure in the centre of it, and on the west side, the remains of

The entry for Tub Bataha in HMS Nassau’s manuscript survey book of 1871 (sourced from the UK Hydrographic Office)

As well as Tubbataha, HMS Nassau established the correct location for Jessie Beazley Reef, which lies some 20 kms NW of Tubbataha (but was first positioned to the NNE). In 1865 the reef was named after the Jessie Beazley, a 477ton merchant ship built in Liverpool in 1859. From 5 November to 17 December 1863 the Jessie Beazley is known to have made a voyage from Foochoofoo in China to Port Adelaide in Australia,(14) but whether she encountered the eponymous reef on this voyage or on another passage through the Sulu Sea is not recorded.


P.D. Believed not to exist.” But after the country’s transfer from Spain to the United States, charts of the Philippines became the responsibility of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, and during the 20th century these charts continued to improve.(15) Jessie Beazley reef above the surface at low tide (photograph by Christian Perez)

For “Jessie Beazley”, page 32 of HMS Nassau’s survey book records: “This reef lies about 14 miles SWbW of the northern tip of the Tub Bataha, the position is approximate as it was only seen from the masthead, the Nassau passed between it, and the Tub Bataha to the westward. As a complete examination of the dangers has not yet been made, the seaman when navigating in the vicinity cannot be too cautious or keep too good a look out, the lead being almost useless.” For the remainder of the 19th century the British and Spanish charts show no significant changes to HMS Nassau’s surveys. Indeed, the Treaty of Paris map, published in 1899, has both “Tub Bataha (H.M.S. Nassau ‘71)” and the old “Quesada or Tub Bataha parts dry at low water


In 1969 the National Geographic Magazine produced a map of the Pacific Ocean Floor which shows the Sulu Basin and the volcanic seamounts comprising the Cagayan Ridge, on which Tubbataha perches.(16) Other accurate and detailed modern charts of Tubbataha can be found in the report of the 2004 Coral Reef Monitoring Expedition to Tubbataha Reefs National Marine Park,(17) and are also published by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) (see back cover). Nevertheless, Tubbataha can still suffer major marine mishaps as a result of faulty charting. In 2013 the U.S. Navy minesweeper USS Guardian ran aground on Tubbataha (and subsequently had to be dismantled so as not to cause further environmental damage), apparently because its satellite navigation systems had been given the wrong coordinates for the reefs.

Notes & References The author wishes to thank Raphael P.M. Lotilla, Christian Perez and Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan for their assistance with this article, which is based on the presentation given to PHIMCOS by the author on 23 August, 2017. Unless otherwise stated, maps illustrated are from the author’s collection. (1)

Tubbataha lies within the island municipality of Cagayancillo, which today is in the province of Palawan. Until the mid-19th century Cagayancillo was a pueblo (municipality after 1810) in the province of Antique (previously the Malay sakup of Hantik), on the west side of the island of Panay. In 1858 Tubbataha became part of the newly-created province of Balabac, which was subsequently merged with the province of Puerto Princesa (also created in 1858) to form the province of Paragua, which was in turn renamed Palawan on 28 June, 1905.


The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (aka the Tubbataha Reefs National Marine Park) covers a total area of 97,030 hectares and consists of two atolls (the North Atoll and the South Atoll) and the smaller Jessie Beazley Reef.


Francisco Mallari S.J., The Spanish Navy in the Philippines, 1589-1787, Philippine Studies Vol. 37, No. 4, Ateneo de Manila University (1989).


Alexander Dalrymple, Chart of Faveau’s Voyage Reduced from the Original MS on a scale of 7 inches to 1o. Communicated by the late Mons.r D’Aprés entitled Carta Plana Particular de El Viage que hizo La Armada despachada el Ano 1753 por El M.Y.S. Marques de Ovando Governador y Capitan General de las Yslas Philipinas al Cargo de D. Antonio Faveau Quesada para el Establecimiento de un Presidio en la Punta mas al Sur de la Ysla de La Paragua reconocimiento de sus Costas, Rios, Ensenadas, Bahias, Surgideros, Estrechos, Curso de Corientes, Calidades de Fondo, y otras Circumstancias que pueden ser apreciables en todo Tiempo Sacada por las Observaciones y Diario del Mismo Don Antonio Faveau Quesada Comandante General de toda la Expedicion Quien La dedica Al Muy Ylustre Senor Marques de Ovando Gefe de Esquadra de la Real Armada, Del Consejo de Su Magestad, Governador y Capitan General de la dichas Yslas Philipinas, y Presidente de la Real Audiencia de Manila, London (1 August, 1781).


Alexander Dalrymple, A Chart of the China Sea Inscribed to Monsr. D’Aprés de Mannevillette the ingenious Author of the Neptune Oriental: As a Tribute due to his Labours for the benefit of Navigation; and in acknowledgement of his many signal Favours to ADalrymple, London 1771 and Paris 1775.


Robert Sayer & John Bennett, A General Chart of the China Sea: Drawn from the Journals of the European Navigators, particularly from those Collected by Capt. Hayter, London (20 April, 1778).


Robert Laurie & James Whittle, A Chart of the Passages between the Philippine and the Isles of Borneo and Mindanao with those to the Southward of the Sooloo Archipelago and the Isle of Mindanao from The East India Pilot or Oriental Navigator, London (12 May, 1794).


William Heather / J.W. Norie, A New Chart of the Sooloo Archipelago, Exhibiting All the Islands and Passages between the Islands of Borneo & Magindanao, Together with those Between Borneo and Palawan, Drawn from the Best Authorities, by W. Heather, London (27 January, 1807; new edition 1820).


Felipe Bauzá y Cañas, Carta General del Archipiélago De Filipinas Levantada en 1792 y 93 por los Comandantes y oficiales de las Corbetas de S.M. Descubierta y Atrevida, durante la Campaña q.e de r.l orn. hicieron con este objeto: enriquecida de nuesos reconocimientos que han practicado despues otros Oficiales de la Armada, Direccion Hidrografica, Madrid (1808).

(10) William Thornton Bate, China Sea. Palawan Island. Surveyed by Comr. W.T. Bate, R.N., assisted by Lieuts. C. Pasco & C. Bullock and Mr. W. Calver Mast. 1850-54, Hydrographic Office of the Admiralty, London (1856). (11) Charles Wilkes, Map of the Sooloo Sea and Archipelago by the U.S. Ex. Ex. 1842, from the atlas volume of Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition During the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842, Philadelphia (1845). (12) Vice-Admiral Sir Archibald Day, The Admiralty Hydrographic Service 1795-1919, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London (1967). (13) OD 182 Philippines / Sulu archipel. and Tawi Tawi group / Commander Chimmo RN, HMS NASSAU 1871-72, United Kingdom Hydrographic Office, Taunton ( (14) Passengers in History, South Australian Maritime Museum ( (15) NOAA’s Historical Map & Chart Collection, Office of Coast Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce ( (16) Pacific Ocean Floor, The National Geographic Magazine Vol. 136 No.4, copyright©1969 National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C. ( (17) Alan T. White Ph.D., Patrick Christie Ph.D. et al., Summary Field Report: Saving Philippine Reefs / Coral Reef Monitoring Expedition to Tubbataha Reefs National Marine Park, Sulu Sea, Philippines, April 3-11, 2004, The Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation, Inc. and Coastal Resource Management Project, Cebu City.


Bungling Geographers: Dalrymple, New Britain and the Solomon Islands by Richard T. Jackson


NE OF the most colourful, industrious, principled, rumbustious and productive of all British cartographers was a Scot, Alexander Dalrymple (1737-1808), whose work relating to the Philippines was presented to PHIMCOS in a previous paper.(1) It might seem invidious to select (as this paper does) a single map from his oeuvre of more than 1350 maps, charts, plans, books, pamphlets and papers),(2) and to pretend (as this paper does not) that it somehow characterised Dalrymple’s career as a whole. Yet the history of a small portion of the map used by Dalrymple to illustrate his theory relating to the existence of a Great Southern Continent does help to provide a portrait of the cartographer in his youth, and an insight into why his career was not at the time (nor since) as celebrated as his overall efforts and output merit. In this instance, Dalrymple made an unfortunate error.

Dalrymple’s map The map in question is the Chart of the South Pacifick Ocean, Pointing out the Discoveries made therein Previous to 1764, first published by Dalrymple in 1767,(3) and revised in 1769 (4) as part of his disquisition on the relationship between the Solomons and New Britain. Dalrymple was held in high regard by the French cartographers of the period, with whom he regularly corresponded, and in 1774 his map was copied with slight variations and published in Paris.(5) The main features of the map, in comparison with what we now (almost 250 years later) know to be the geographical reality of the area portrayed, are:  In the lower left-hand corner there is a sketch drawn from Theodore de Bry’s map of the western hemisphere; (6) most historians of cartography assert that de Bry’s information was taken from Petrus Plancius’s world map. (7)

Alexander Dalrymple’s Chart of the South Pacifick Ocean … (1767) 1769 from An Account of the Discoveries made in the South Pacifick Ocean, Previous to 1764 (National Library of Australia, map plate in FRM F24 (N) / BibID: 4507832) 16

insert St. Anna, St. Catarina, Nombre de Dios and Malaita (9) between them and Wishart’s Island. Isabella is placed in the gap between New Ireland and New Britain.

Detail from Robert de Vaugondy’s edition of Dalrymple’s map, Carte de la Terre des Papous, de la Nouvelle Guinée, et des Isles de Salomon (National Library of Australia, nla.obj-232204960)

 The land of the Papuans is an island, separate from New Guinea; the map notes that “old charts showed a passage here”.  The Endeavour Strait is shown on the French edition, but not on Dalrymple’s earlier versions for the simple reason that Lieutenant James Cook had not set off on his first voyage to Australia on HMS Endeavour when Dalrymple first published the map. Dalrymple claimed that his research into the Torres Strait (through which the Spanish pilot Luís Vaez de Torres had sailed in 1606) led to his passing on the knowledge of this strait to his friend Joseph Banks (Cook’s companion on the voyage), which was why Cook used it.(8)  The whole of the right-hand side of the map is a chaotic mess. The chart uses discoveries made by Torres (Orangerie Bay in the lower centre) to attach Guadalcanal to the New Guinea mainland, and intersperses the other Solomon Islands amongst the islands of New Guinea. Both New Britain and New Ireland are split into several islands; New Britain becomes de Bry’s Dagoa, but is in turn divided up so as to become the Solomon islands of St. Jerome, Aracifes, St. Nicolas and St. Mark recorded by the Spanish navigators Alvaro de Mendaña y Neira and Pedro Fernández de Quirós. New Ireland is likewise divided by channels so as to represent the Solomon islands of St. Jago, St. Christobal, San Juan, Ramos, Flores and St. Dimas. Gerrit de Nys Island (“Garret Dannis” on the map) and the Ant Caves Island are shifted eastward to allow Dalrymple to

 There is no Bougainville Island – nor could there be because, as Dalrymple was publishing this map, Louis-Antoine de Bougainville was in the process of discovering the eponymous island. Choiseul, which is the only one of the Solomons to be placed more or less where it has turned out to be, peeps into the map at the lower right margin, probably wondering where its sibling islands have wandered off to. In his text, Dalrymple’s conclusion is a simple but striking one (with emphasis added to illustrate Dalrymple’s tendency to use verbal bludgeons in his arguments): “There seems to me no room to doubt that what Mendana named SALOMON islands are what Dampier named NEW BRITAIN.” (4) Dalrymple’s circumstances in 1762-1771 Throughout his life, Dalrymple’s energy was astonishing: he was a driven man. And it is evident that his drive came from his admiration of the great explorers who preceded him, Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan, whose exploits had: “… precluded all competition in the honour of sublime discovery. Much, however, is still within the power of men who may be rather emulous of the glorious spirits of that age, than devoted to the mercenary or indolent disposition of the present’.(4) His admiration of the few was mirrored, however, by his dismissal of the many; not only does it seem that he was underendowed with the ability to suffer fools gladly, but he was also of the view that fools were to be found everywhere, and especially among mapmakers. And his energy led him to assert his views strongly, perhaps too strongly for some. He was highly critical of even rather famous explorers, and had little respect for “bungling geographers”: “The early discoveries….have hitherto been involved in such obscurity that….Geographers, giving way to their conjectures, have been carried into the most egregious of contradictions.” (4) 17

Dalrymple’ drive, evident from the very first, may owe something to his having been the seventh son of a minor baronet in a brood of 16 children raised in comfortable (but far from luxurious) circumstances near Edinburgh.(10) By the age of 15 (he lied about his age) he was off to Madras to take up a clerk’s position in the East India Company. In 1759, aged 22, he was searching for alternative sailing routes from India to China, focussing on the possibility of discovering new channels through New Guinea. I believe this work is instrumental in explaining why he made the error of confusing the Solomons with New Britain and New Ireland. In Madras, sometime before 1762, he had also, chanced across documents relating to Torres’s discovery of the eponymous strait between New Guinea and Australia. In December 1762, having returned to Madras after a visit to Sulu, he drew up a draft of the map under consideration. By the time he was 25, he had explored much of southeast Asia including Cochin China, the south coast of China, the Batanes, and Basilan; and had, to his own satisfaction (if not to that of the Spanish authorities in Manila) negotiated a treaty with the Sultan of Sulu. In late March 1764, he was appointed as Provisional Deputy Governor of British territory in the Philippines – even if, within a week, the British withdrawal occurred and he returned to Madras via Sulu to pursue his scheme for a British trading post on the island of Balambangan. By 1767 he had been back in London for two years, had been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, and had determined where his lessthan-sublime but still worthwhile contribution to the progress of mankind would come from: proving the existence of the Great Southern Continent. His own proof of such a region depended heavily on theoretical reasoning: the ratio of land to sea must be approximately the same on either side of the Equator so that “counterpoise” would be achieved, yet the known land masses of the southern hemisphere were by far “too small” to achieve this and therefore a major undiscovered landmass must exist. But this was theory; Dalrymple needed, like his heroes Columbus and Magellan, to see this undiscovered land with his own eyes. As he lacked sufficient funds to allow him to make this contribution independently, he needed a sponsor, and the ideal one presented itself. 18

The Royal Society, in partnership with the Royal Navy, was planning to determine an accurate method of calculating longitude by sending expeditions to observe the transit of Venus in 1768, one of which would be to the Marquesas in the south Pacific. Dalrymple hoped to be put in charge of this expedition. To bolster his claims as a mere 29-year-old he needed to present a strong case – by producing his arguments for the Southern Continent which, he was sure, could be located as part of the expedition from the Marquesas. Hence his 1767 book containing (in one corner of his map of explorers’ routes across the Pacific) a version of the 1762 map being considered here, as well as a novel way of depicting the world as a map in three parts, one for each of the poles and a third for the land between 30o N and 30oS. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the Royal Navy insisted, in May 1768, that a naval officer, James Cook, should lead the expedition, with Joseph Banks to accompany him. The effect of this decision on Dalrymple is evident from a comparison of the preface he wrote to his 1767 publication with that with which he introduced his 1770-71 account of Pacific voyages and, in particular, in his sarcastic and unfortunately self-aggrandising dedication for the latter. It was in the later publication (in which he published the large-scale version of his odd map) that he outlined the reasons why he had concluded that the Solomons and New Britain were one and the same. In defence of Dalrymple Dalrymple’s map is clearly highly erroneous; in his attempt to rid the world map of “one of those blunders which geographers are continually perpetrating” (4) he inadvertently followed in their clumsy footsteps. But, at least in the late 1760s, Dalrymple had some reason to believe that New Britain and the Solomons were in fact one and the same thing just as, at that time, he was far from being alone in his belief in the existence of the Great Southern Continent. Europeans approached the area of New Guinea and the Solomons from both east and west. Jorge de Menezes touched upon the far northwest of New Guinea in 1526 from Ternate and gave the name Papua to that portion of the island. Alvaro de Saavedra, returning to New Spain from Tidore, visited parts of the north

Detail of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands from Petrus Plancius’s Spice Map Insulae Moluccae (1594) (Peter Geldart collection)

coast and Manus Island in 1528-29 but then sailed north and east without approaching either New Britain or the Solomons. Inigo de Retes, proceeding out of Tidore, in 1545, sailed along much of the north coast of New Guinea (on which he bestowed that name without determining whether Menezes’s Papua was part of, or separate from, New Guinea) before returning. None of these early visitors from the west got as far eastward as either New Britain or the Solomons. When the 25-year-old Mendaña discovered the Solomons in 1568 (11) he arrived from the east, (from Peru) and did not proceed to New Guinea, insofar as he knew. As Dalrymple says of this expedition: “Mendana himself was very uncertain of the situation of the places he had discovered … so that it is not wonderful there is great discordancy in the different relation …”.(4) In the late 16th century, for cartographers such as Abraham Ortelius, Petrus Plancius, and Gerard and Cornelis de Jode, New Guinea was something of a blob on their maps of the world, with the Solomons located immediately to the blob’s east in more or less the actual location of what was later to be known as New Britain and New Ireland. On Plancius’s famous map of the Spice Islands of 1596,(12) Nova Guinea appears as a rather square peninsula, but still with the Insulæ Salomonis due east, and on the basis of these Dutch productions, Dalrymple’s conclusions were far from being unreasonable. Moreover, when Mendaña returned in 1597, accompanied by Quirós and with orders to establish a settlement in the Solomons, the expedition failed, decimated by skirmishes with the islanders and disease. Mendaña himself was killed and his widow, Doña Ysabel de Barretos, led the remaining members to Manila via Butuan. One consequence of this failure was

that no full account of the expedition was produced, and certainly no clarification of the world or regional map was possible. No-one by 1600 had navigated both New Guinea and the Solomons from the east or west, and so the relationship between them remained unknown. No-one was to revisit the Solomons until both Philip Carteret and de Bougainville did so at precisely the time Dalrymple was making his bid to lead the transit of Venus expedition in 1767. Indeed the Solomons vanished from many European maps altogether. The exploration of New Guinea’s coasts did proceed rather more rapidly. In 1606, Torres had found his way through the strait that bears his name on his way to Manila; but this was not widely known except to keen researchers like Dalrymple, who was able to inform Banks, prior to his voyage with Cook, of the existence of this passage to the south of New Guinea. Willem Schouten and Jacob Le Maire came close to being the first to record the geographical relationship between the two sets of islands but, unfortunately, they veered north just east of Santa Cruz and thereby bypassed the Solomons, although they did sail along the outer islands of the future New Ireland and named Gerrit De Nys Island (in the Lihir group). Abel Tasman too, Batavia-bound from his discovery of New Zealand in 1642, came close to (but did not reach) the islands discovered by Mendaña. Emanuel Bowen’s map showing the marvellous extent of Tasman’s discoveries illustrates that the lacunæ addressed by Dalrymple remained unfilled.(13) In 1699, William Dampier sailed southward along the whole length of New Ireland between the main and the offshore islands (visited by Schouten and Le Maire earlier) and then westwards along the whole of the south coast of 19

New Britain. He narrowly missed observing that the two islands were separated by St George’s Strait (such a discovery might have temporarily strengthened Dalrymple’s later argument), but then did determine that New Britain was separated from the New Guinea mainland when he turned northwestward to sail along the whole northern coastline of New Guinea on his way home. In short, whilst later exploration had greatly added to European knowledge of New Guinea, nothing had been added to that relating to the Solomons since the publication of the late 16th century maps by Ortelius, Plancius, de Bry, de Jode and Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas (14), which showed the Yslas de Salamôn due east of mainland New Guinea. Hence, Dalrymple’s conflation of the two, and his argument that New Britain (15) and Mendaña’s Solomons would eventually be found to be one and the same. It was unfortunate that none of the voyagers, whether coming from Peru, Tidore/Ternate or elsewhere, had happened to come across both the Solomons and the New Guinea islands and thus proved they were separate entities. There is another line of defence for Dalrymple: the expedition he had hoped to lead to observe the transit of Venus and establish the existence of the Great Southern Continent had as its most important purpose the establishment of the basis for the accurate calculation of longitude. The resources put into this research show the importance attached both to the accuracy of longitudinal measurement and to establishing of the exact location of rarely-visited places around the globe whose observed longitude was at best doubtful. Where Dalrymple could be said to have been not unreasonable but incautious was in using the evidence available to him selectively, and of over-emphasising the strength of his case. His incautious selectivity of data is exemplified by his argument that Herrera’s written description of the location of the Solomons was accurate (since it fitted his argument), but that the map which accompanied the text was “the work of some bungling geographer”.(4) This implies that Herrera had no control over his cartographers, or had not carefully checked their work prior to publication; this seems farfetched. Dalrymple goes on: 20

“Herrera’s latitudes, as well as De Bry’s, exceed the truth by many degrees, Isabella being placed by them between 8 and 9 deg. S. instead of 4 deg. to 5 deg. S. This error in the latitude has been the great source of confusion we meet with, and has prevented it from being observed that the Salomon islands, discovered in 1567, are, in fact, New-Britain as a due comparison of De Bry’s map, and Herrera’s description with Dampier will plainly evince”.(4) It does not help Dalrymple’s case that Isabella does, in fact, straddle the line of 8o S. latitude! But having given this “evidence” of geographic bungling, in the very next paragraph he then baldly goes on to say that: “Herrera will help to confirm the position that the Salomon islands are New Britain”. (4) As for Dalrymple’s tendency to overstate his case, note the “plainly evince”’ in the quoted passage, and his consistent use of “plainly” or “clearly” when matters are far from plain or clear. Such intensifiers make for good reading but, when it transpires that the intensified statement is wrong, amplify such errors. Indefensible? The Buache episode The timing of Dalrymple’s support for the theory of the Great Southern Continent (even if many others shared his views), and his more personal proposal that New Britain and the Solomons were one and the same, was singularly unfortunate. Cook’s second voyage (in 1772-75), finally put to bed the Counterpoising Continent theory. Meanwhile, once they were reported, the quite separate re-discoveries by Carteret and de Bougainville of the Solomons in 1767, and their further discoveries in the New Guinea Islands, went some way to demolishing the New Britain/Solomons conflation theory, a process that was also advanced by Antoine Raymond Joseph Bruni d’Entrecasteaux in the mid-1790s. Notwithstanding his reputation for being opinionated and other weaknesses, one of Dalrymple’s many great personal characteristics was his principled professionalism. He was in constant touch with his French counterparts, notably J.B.N.D. d’Après de Mannevillette, despite the rivalry that existed between their nations. Cross-border professional courtesies were a feature of 18th century science,(16) and Dalrymple’s work was well-known, respected, and published in France.(5)

LINSCHOTEN, Jan Huygen. Exacta & accurata delineatio cum orarum maritimdrum tum etjam locorum terrestrium quae in regionibus China. Amsterdam, 1595. From Hubbard Collection of “Japan and Southeast Asia”.

New York 24 East 64th Street New York NY 10065 +1 (212) 602 1779

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But in 1787 it was a Frenchman, Jean-Nicolas Buache, the King’s Geographer, who took on Dalrymple. In 1781 Buache had published a planisphere world map, centred on the North Pole, which showed the Solomons as very much separate from New Guinea and reasonably accurately located (albeit without the Torres Strait). He had observed in a paper presented to the French Académie Royale des Sciences in January 1781 (17) that in his theory of New Britain / Solomons conflation Dalrymple had allowed his “patriotic zeal to betray him”. Buache was almost certainly one of the “modern geographers” whom Dalrymple had frequently lambasted for their inaccuracies. In a later paper to the Académie in 1787,(18) addressed specifically against Dalrymple’s theory, Buache observed that: “the opinions of M. Dalrymple have been destroyed, rather than having been confirmed, by the discoveries of Captain Carteret, and his map of New Britain, the most inaccurate of all those one can encounter of the region, is no longer of service … having perpetuated errors and retarded the progress of discovery” (author’s translation). It is difficult not to agree with Buache; Carteret was the first European to visit both part of the Solomons and New Britain and thus show them to be separate entities. But in 1790, in a privately printed pamphlet,(19) Dalrymple tried to justify his earlier work and rebut Buache’s charges (with typical sarcasm): “At the same time that I make my acknowledgements for the courteous manner in which M. Buache speaks of myself, I shall criticise His Memoir and Map with the same freedom he has done mine. So distinguished a Geographer, as M. Buache, must be sensible that Precision is not to be expected in Geographical Combinations … all that can be presented … is an Aproximation to the truth …”. He does admit that he was in error insofar as his positioning of Guadalcanal was concerned, and notes in his own defence, that: “even latitudes, unless we have the Original and faithful Documents are not implicitly to be relied on”; but concludes that: “I must still retain my opinion that the Salomon Islands of Mendaña are what Dampier has named New Britain”. Dalrymple also added that one of Carteret’s discoveries: ”has shown I was right in supposing a Channel through New-Britain, where he found


one: future Experience must confirm or refute the other partitions I have alledged”. He was correct on this particular point, for Carteret had passed through St. George’s Channel and demonstrated that New Ireland was separate from New Britain. But he was quite wrong to hope that further channels dissecting both New Britain and New Ireland would ever be located, as his own theory supposed there to be. Conclusions & Coda Although it was a minor matter compared with his misplaced adherence to the erroneous theory of the Great Southern Continent, Dalrymple was wrong in his basic supposition that the Solomons of Mendaña were the New Britain of Dampier. His personal theory was first developed in 1762, at a time when he had been searching, on behalf of the East India Company, for new passages between Madras and Canton and when, therefore, channels between the islands east of Java were very much in his mind. It is reasonable to suppose that he simply extended this reality ill-advisedly to the notional geography of the islands east of New Guinea. A brilliant observer in the field, Dalrymple was unfortunate in his ventures into theory. It took some time for the discoveries of Carteret and Bougainville to sink into the consciousness of European cartographers; in the 1790s maps were still being published with many of the features imagined by Dalrymple: the separation of Papua from New Guinea, at least one channel splitting New Britain in two, and (as an echo of Dalrymple’s original Guadalcanal) a very large island of Louisiade where, in reality, only a sprinkle of golden-sanded islands are scattered in the emerald and azurite jewel box that is the Solomon Sea. Indeed, it was not until 1874 that Captain John Moresby definitively mapped the southeastern coastline of mainland New Guinea. There is a twist in the tail of this tale: in early 2017 geologists proclaimed that a new continent has been found. Although almost all of “Zealandia” lies underwater, covering some five million sq. km. in an area stretching from the Chatham Islands to New Caledonia, it “fulfils all the necessary requirements to be considered a continent”.(20) Whilst it does not vindicate his conflation of New Britain and the Solomons, Zealandia is curiously reminiscent of Dalrymple’s previously-scoffed-at Counterpoising Continent.

References & Notes (1)

Peter Geldart, Alexander Dalrymple (1737-1808) and his Charts of the Philippines, PHIMCOS, Manila (2010).


Andrew S. Cook, Alexander Dalrymple (1737-1808), Hydrographer to the East India Company and to the Admiralty as Publisher: A Catalogue of Books and Charts, Ph.D. Thesis, University of St. Andrews (1992).


Alexander Dalrymple, An Account of the Discoveries made in the South Pacifick Ocean, Previous to 1764, London (1767).

` (4)

Alexander Dalrymple, An Historical Collection of the several Voyages and Discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean, Volume I and Volume II Containing the Dutch Voyages, London (1769-70 / 1771).


Alexander Dalrymple / Gilles Robert de Vaugondy, Carte de la Terre des Papous, de la Nouvelle Guinée, et des Isles de Salomon selon le Système de Mr. le Chevr Dalrymple par le Sr De Vaugondy, from Voyages dans la mer du Sud, par les Espagnols et les Hollandais, ouvrage traduit de l'anglais de M. Dalrymple par M. de Fréville, Saillant et Nyon, Paris (1774).


Theodore de Bry, America Sive Novus Orbis Respectu Europaeorum Inferior Globi Terrestris Pars, Frankfurt (1596).


Petrus Plancius, Orbis Terrarum Typus De Integro Multis In Locis Emendatus, Amsterdam (1594).


Howard T. Fry, “Alexander Dalrymple and New Guinea”, in The Journal of Pacific History Vol. 4(1), Taylor & Francis (1969).


There is a specific error made by the map here. Dalrymple’s text assigns the name Malaita to what he says is a long, unmarked island on William Dampier’s map, but the placing of the name “Denis Island” on the latter map is slightly ambiguous: it could be interpreted as being appended to one of the Ant Cave Islands (which is what Dalrymple seems to have done), whereas it is meant to be appended to the “long” island which is in fact the Lihir group of islands.

Detail from A Complete Map of the Southern Continent survey'd by Capt. Abel Tasman … by Emanuel Bowen (1744) (National Library of Australia, nla.obj-163902730)

(10) “Alexander Dalrymple” in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, Melbourne University Press (1966). (11) Lord Amherst of Hackney & Basil Thomson, The Discovery of the Solomon Islands by Alvaro de Mendaña in 1568. Translated from the Original Spanish Manuscripts, The Hakluyt Society, London (1901). (12) Petrus Plancius, Insulae Moluccae celeberrimæ sunt ob Maximam aromatum copiam quam per totum terrarium orbem mittunt, published by Cornelis Claesz, Amsterdam (1594). (13) Emanuel Bowen, A Complete Map of the Southern Continent survey'd by Capt. Abel Tasman & depicted by order of the East India Company in Holland in the Stadt House at Amsterdam, London (1744). Bowen’s map was essentially a copy of the map by Melchisédech Thévenot published in Relations de divers Voyages curieux, Paris (1663). In exactly the place on his map which should have been occupied by the Solomons, Bowen places the following note: “The Reader is desired to observe that nothing is marked here but what has been Actually discovered which is the reason of the white Space between … New Zealand and New Guinea; it is also requisite that the country discovered by Ferdinand de Quiros lies … on the East Side – directly opposite to Carpentaria …”. (14) Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, Descripcion de las Indias del Poniente, from Historia general de los hechos de los Castellanos en las Islas i Tierra Firme del Mar Océano, Madrid (1601). (15) Since Dampier’s map showed New Britain and New Ireland conjoined, it was reasonable for Dalrymple to refer to them together as New Britain only. (16) Dalrymple’s dismissal in 1808 as the Admiralty’s Hydrographer was partly occasioned by his refusal to hand over d’Entrecasteaux’s maps before the French had published them; cf. Howard T. Fry, Alexander Dalrymple and the Expansion of British Trade, The Royal Commonwealth Society Imperial Studies No. XXIX, Frank Cass and Company Limited (1970). (17) Jean-Nicolas Buache, Les découvertes des François en 1768 & 1769 au sud-est de la Nouvelle Guinée, Mémoires de l’Académie Royale des Sciences, Paris (1781). (18) Jean-Nicolas Buache, Eclaircissements Géographique sur la Nouvelle Bretagne, Mémoires de l’Académie Royale des Sciences, Paris (1787). (19) Alexander Dalrymple, Considerations on M. Buache’s Memoir Concerning New-Britain, London (1790). (20) Nick Mortimer et al., “Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent”, in GSA Today, Volume 17, Issue 3 (2017).


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