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Taking it to the edge: did you know? Suggested Dutch settlement of South Australia

In 1717 Jean Pierre Purry wrote to the Dutch East India Company (VOC) suggesting a settlement in Nuyts Land (the far west of South Australia), which had been discovered in 1627 by Franz Thyssen and Pieter Nuyts in 't Gulden Zeepaard (the Golden Seahorse). 

Purry was a Swiss, employed in the East Indies and had developed a theory about the climate in various zones north and south of the equator. Drawing upon his observations of the world and his reading of the scientific theories of his time he believed that an ideal climate existed between 30 and 36 degrees of latitude. 'Firstly, which is the 'climate' the most fruitful in good fruits and in what degree of the globe (latitude) must one look for the most temperate regions best suited for the production of good wines? And secondly, that the country of the Kaffirs [South Africa] as well as the Land of Nuyts, is situated within that particular climate.'  'In my opinion, to find the best countries in the world one must seek them in the centre of the 5th 'climate' on the 33 degree of latitude; because, although it is certain that it is the sun alone which gives strength to wines, nevertheless, the hottest and the coldest countries are unsuitable for not alone the vine, but all sorts of good fruits, and it is only the regions with a tempered heat which can produce them.' 

This ideal climate should be utilized and would produce an agricultural and horticultural bounty with minimal effort. This range of latitude extended through the coast charted by Thyssen and Nuyts in 1627. Purry placed his proposal for a settlement before the governor of the VOC in Batavia in 1717.  'Whence comes it that all this seaboard which one calls the Land of Nuyts, extending over five or six hundred leagues, all in the 5th climate, should not be comparable with Barbary, Chili, and all the best countries, as well of the old as of the new world? Why should all the other countries in the world which are situated within this 'climate' be good, and this one alone be worthless?'

Governor Christophel van Swol did not consider the proposal worthwhile, but conceded that Purry could take it to the Company Board in Amsterdam. This he was able to do in late 1718. The proposal is contained in his Memoire sur Le Pais des Caffres, et La Terre de Nuyts, Amsterdam, 1718 and Second memoire sur le pais des Cafres, et la terre de Nuyts, Amsterdam, 1718. Initially the Board found some merit in his theory, and were almost on the point of arranging ships, when they changed their minds. Undaunted Purry approached the French with his scheme, and when they ignored his proposal he approached the English. Nothing came of his proposed scheme for a settlement in the 'optimal' climate of Nuyts Land, but the English did support his suggestion for a settlement in South Carolina.

Further reading:

Buchanan, Mr Justice "Proposed Dutch colony in Nuyts land" Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia (South Australian Branch), volume 19, 1917/18

Lands of true and certain bounty: the geographical theories and colonization strategies of Jean Pierre Purry edited and annotated with introductions to the texts by Arlin C. Migliazzo, Selinsgrove [PA]: Susquehanna University Press; London; Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, c2002

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