Australia has several nicknames attached to it.
The Australian Outback is one of the most popular.
However, many people also refer to Australia as “The Land Down Under.”
Here’s what you need to know about why Australia has that nickname.
Why Is Australia Called The Land Down Under?
Australia has the nickname “The Land Down Under” because of its location south of the equator.
Since the country wholly exists south of the equator, to early explorers, it seemed as though the continent was at the bottom of the world.
Although Australians don’t typically call their own country “The Land Down Under,” it is something still used today by those in other parts of the world.
Who Was The First European To Land In Australia?
Since Australia got the nickname of being “The Land Down Under” from early explorers, you may wonder who those early explorers were.
According to the National Library of Australia, it was an explorer named Willem Janszoon who first discovered and started to really draw the coastlines of Australia.
Before him, however, Europeans were aware that there was some sort of landmass to the south.
They gave the name Terra Australia Incognito which translated to “Unknown South Land.”
Willem first landed on what would become the Cape York Peninsula.
While he was there, he charted 300 kilometers (just over 186 miles) of the coastline.
While Willem may have been the first to start mapping out the coastline of Australia, the work would continue in the hands of many others.
For example, a large number of Dutch explorers continued to sail along the southern, northern, and western coastlines.
They continued to sketch the coastline, trying to map out the country.
However, a British explorer named James Cook receives the credit for being the first European to land on the eastern shores of Australia.
His landing occurred in the year 1770.
Using the maps that Dutch explorers had made previously, he looked to explore the land properly.
While Willem Janszoon and the Dutch are responsible for drawing out the first maps of Australia, it was James Cook who receives the credit for being the first European to land in Australia and starts its exploration.
Who Is James Cook?
James Cook was a famous explorer and cartographer during the Age of Enlightenment.
In this period, the world saw a lot of countries looking to explore and claim other land masses all over the world.
Despite these land masses often having indigenous people already living on them, it was European tradition to colonize them and claim them as their own.
James Cook was one of the primary explorers who claimed various landmasses for England.
He wasn’t always a sailor, however.
He was born on October 27th, 1728 to a family of farmers.
He grew up as a farm boy, but he received an education.
Cook performed well in school and worked hard on his studies.
When he was 16, he left school and decided to take up a life of sailing.
He joined his first ship at the age of 18.
For nine years, he worked as an apprentice sailor.
After that, he joined the Royal Navy.
He’d be part of the navy for several years until the year 1768.
Cook received orders to lead an expedition.
He had the task of sailing to the South Seas and observing the planet Venus as it traveled across the Sun.
Cook set sail to Tahiti and completed the observations.
However, it was there that he opened secret orders he had received.
The orders told him that he was actually to head further south to try and find the mysterious Terra Australia Incognito.
Cook spent several years at sea, trying to find Australia.
He ended up briefly passing by Antarctica.
In fact, he had to regularly fight through ice packs and storms to continue traveling.
Although Cook never saw Antarctica, he always believed that it existed.
When Did Cook Discover New Zealand?
James Cook had received secret orders from the English throne to find trade opportunities in the Pacific.
That included discovering the mysterious land that Europe only had some passing knowledge about.
While James Cook had to fight through freezing temperatures and ice packs on his way to Australia, he ended up landing in New Zealand first.
He had a few indigenous people with him on board at the time, too.
They were from Tahiti where he had set off for Australia.
When Cook encountered New Zealand, they came into conflict with the indigenous people there.
The British ended up killing the leader of the Māori people named Te Maro.
An attempt at trade occurred shortly after.
However, while they were exchanging goods, one of the indigenous people from Tahiti was kidnapped by the Māori people.
The British fired on the canoes and Taiato, the kidnapped Tahitian individual, was able to escape and make it back on board the ship.
Cook led his group of explorers around New Zealand, anchoring in a few areas to name certain areas and allowing the artists on board to sketch the land.
He eventually anchored at Ship Cove, Queen Charlotte Sound, which he invested in and used as his main headquarters on the island.
When he continued to sail across the coast of New Zealand, they realized that it was an island.
In Europe, many believed that New Zealand was actually part of Australia.
Cook was able to prove that it was a separate island entirely.
However, it allowed him to see the landmass of Australia, and his ship headed in that direction.
In total, Cook had spent six months mapping out and drawing the coast of New Zealand.
When Did Cook Discover Australia?
After mapping out the greater part of New Zealand, Cook started to head for the eastern shores of Australia.
He had already seen maps created by Dutch explorers.
These explorers had mapped the northern, western, and southern coastlines.
No one had mapped the eastern part of the continent by that time.
They caught sight of the land on April 19th, 1770.
However, they spent some time sailing north to find a proper place where they could anchor and get some supplies.
They eventually decided to anchor on April 29th, 1770 at a place that Cook called Botany Bay.
Their first anchorage wasn’t smooth, however.
Two of the men protested against the landing.
There was some shooting, and one of the men received an injured leg.
They continued to sail north after that.
Cook spotted an area that he called Port Jackson.
This area would eventually be home to a prison colony owned by the British.
It eventually became the modern-day city of Sydney.
On June 11th, 1770, the ship crashed on the Great Barrier Reef.
The bottom of it became torn up, and the ship started to sink.
The crew quickly hauled it to the shore which they named Endeavour River for repairs.
The landing took place on June 18th, 1770.
Shortly after, the indigenous people of the Endeavour River area came and met them.
They were the Guugu Yimithirr people.
The meeting was peaceful and it included the exchange of language and information.
Eventually, with the ship repaired, Cook and his crew returned to sea.
He officially claimed the eastern portion of Australia for England on August 22nd, 1770.
He gave it the name New South Wales.
When Did James Cook Die?
Although James Cook would go on to explore almost every corner of the world, he had a rather unceremonious death.
It all began with a secret mission to find the Northwest Passage.
The British believed there was a Northwest Passage that would allow for easier and more profitable trade.
To ensure they were the only ones who knew about it, the orders given to Cook were top secret.
He began his journey east and eventually ended up landing on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
Initially, the group had friendly interactions with the indigenous people there.
They resupplied, did some repairs, then continued on to Alaska.
They discovered an inlet, which they called Cook Inlet, and believed it was the entrance to the fabled Northwest Passage.
However, it led to an arctic ice sheet and made any further progress impossible.
They returned through the passage and encountered Russian fur traders.
They bought several otter pelts and returned to Hawaii to perform repairs.
They resupplied and even headed back to the sea, but they noticed that the mast of their ship needed further repairs.
They returned to Hawaii to make those repairs.
While they were on the island, there was a fight over a stolen boat.
During the battle, the British killed 16 Hawaiians.
However, the Hawaiians also killed Cook and four British marines.
Supposedly, the chiefs wanted to honor Cook, who they respected, so they cut out his heart and ate it during a ritual.
The captain of the ship, who was now the new leader of the expedition, lay fire on the island until they returned Cook’s body.
The ship sailed on to Japan, where they sold the otter pelts for a great profit, and then eventually returned to England where they could lay Cook to rest.
His death was on February 14th, 1779.
What Was Australia Called First?
Australia wasn’t always called that.
Because the Dutch had navigated a good portion of the country before the British, they started calling it New Holland.
That changed after two British settlers started to explore the country further.
Matthew Flinders was a naval officer who had the task of sailing along the Australian coastline and completing a map of it.
He did so even though it took him three years to complete the task.
Flinders not only completed the map, but he also proved that Australia was a single landmass.
It wasn’t connected to any other country.
Perhaps because of this, Flinders suggested changing the name from New Holland to Australia.
It received major backing in 1817.
When Did The English Start Settling In Australia?
Great Britain started colonizing Australia in 1788.
They focused on the New South Wales portion of the country which Cook had discovered and claimed for the British Empire.
The initial settlements started in Australia by the English were penal colonies.
By this point, Britain had lost its American colonies.
Through that loss, they also had nowhere to send their excess prisoners.
America had accepted their felons at the time.
Without those colonies, England needed new colonies.
The crown gave Arthur Phillip the task of claiming and taming the land from Cape York to Tasmania.
The idea was to set up government farms.
The prisoners would then farm those plots for the benefit of the country.
They’d also use the resources for trade.
Former convicts were also sent to Australia.
They were able to have their own small plots that they could work and own for their lives.
Besides having a place to send their extra prisoners, Australia also served as a great staging area.
It allowed them to have another place where they could launch their navy if needed.
At the very least, they had an ideal staging area for trade.
Their colonies in Australia could trade with the surrounding islands and continents a lot easier than England could.
England started settling Australia’s eastern portion in the late 1700s.
On February 7th, 1788, the government was officially formed in its first colony called Sydney Cove.
Eventually, the settlement would become known as Sydney.
Does England Own Australia?
Since England was responsible for European colonies and settlements in Australia, you may wonder if it still owns the country today.
Technically, Australia is still part of the Commonwealth of Great Britain.
It has a constitutional monarchy, which means the ruler on the throne of England is the head of their government.
Currently, Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state in Australia.
That said, the role of the Queen has become more ceremonial over the decades.
Instead, Australia handles its own governmental affairs.
While it may need permission now and then from the government in Britain for certain things, it’s largely able to make its own decisions.
Australia has its own leaders who establish laws and represent the country with other foreign dignitaries.
Although the Queen doesn’t make laws for the country, she does sometimes visit.
Sometimes other British royals will visit in her stead.
When this occurs, Australia usually has some sort of celebration.
Since Australia is part of the Commonwealth, it’s still technically a part of the United Kingdom.
However, on the basis that it’s a constitutional monarchy, Australia can develop and sign its own bills into law.
It functions as its own government.
What Did The Indigenous People Call Australia?
While the name Australia is European, it wasn’t Europeans who first named the country.
The indigenous people of Australia had their own names for the various regions that made up the continent.
Many of the indigenous people of Australia called the country Uluru.
This covered most of the central portion of Australia.
If you want to call the Land Down Under by its original name, then you should call it Uluru.
When Did The Indigenous People Arrive In Australia?
There are two major indigenous groups in Australia.
The first is the indigenous people and the second is the Torres Strait Islander people.
It’s believed that the indigenous people of Australia have lived there for 40,000 to 50,000 years.
It’s also believed that they originally came from Southeast Asia.
Some researchers believe that the indigenous people of Australia may have even arrived earlier than that.
They place the migration to 65,000 to 80,000 years ago.
Two theories describe how they made their way to Australia.
The belief is that the indigenous people likely used both to arrive in Australia.
The first theory is that they used a land bridge to cross from Southeast Asia to Australia.
This was during a time when the sea waters were lower than they are today.
The low sea levels would have exposed land which allowed them to migrate from one large land mass to the next.
As sea levels rose over the next few centuries, it would have covered the bridge and made walking back to Southeast Asia impossible.
The other theory is that they used boats to travel from Southeast Asia to Australia.
The major pathways for seafaring were likely between Bali and Lombok, and between Timor and Greater Australia.
If they did take boats across the sea, then this would have marked the earliest attempt at seafaring in human history.
Scientists do know that 35,000 years ago, the entire country of Australia had people living in it.
Tasmania had its sea levels rise quickly which ended up stranding some of the indigenous people there.
Australia is famously known as “The Land Down Under.”
Early explorers gave it this name since it exists below the equator.
However, both the Dutch and the indigenous people of Australia had their own names for it as well.NEXT: Why Is Cincinnati Called The Queen City? (Explained)