Geoscience Reference
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during that period (Horton, 1994; Veron, 2009). By the time of the earliest
European settlement in Australia, the terrestrial environment had been modified
by Aboriginal land management practices, including the manipulation of soils
with yam sticks, the transformation of vegetation using fire and the hunting of
fauna. Those impacts were considerable, although their nature and extent has
been contested (Benson and Redpath, 1997; Choquenot and Bowman, 1998).
Trade between Aboriginal clans was widespread and was organised along major
river routes; contact between Indigenous Australian societies and other peoples,
including Papuan, Cantonese and Macassan traders, was also extensive. As a
result, the transformation of the Australian terrestrial environment by Indigenous
societies was substantial in both its geographical extent and its duration (Fitzgerald,
1984; Johnston, 1988; Hill et al., 1999, 2000; Crowley and Garnett, 2000). The
Great Barrier Reef was also used extensively by Indigenous Australians as a
source of food, tools, ornaments and trading commodities; hunting of dugongs,
for example, represented an important part of Indigenous Australian social and
cultural life, as Marsh and Corkeron (1997) acknowledged, and the hunting of
marine turtles was also culturally significant for coastal Indigenous Australians
(McCarthy, 1955; James, 1962).
European contact with the Australian environment began with the early
exploratory voyages made by Dutch, English, Spanish, Portuguese and French
mariners. Bowen and Bowen (2002, pp14-15) discussed the evidence that
Portuguese and Spanish sailors charted parts of the north-eastern coast of Australia
in the years after the Portuguese settlement of Timor, in 1516, although that
evidence is inconclusive because many Portuguese maps were lost in the Lisbon
earthquake of 1755. In 1606, part of the eastern coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria
was charted by the Dutch crew of the Duyfken ; the Spanish navigator, Luis Vaez
de Torres, sailed through Torres Strait in the same year. In 1616, a Dutch vessel,
the Eendracht , reached the northern and western coasts of Australia during
voyages from Europe to the East Indies, and Dutch ships later sailed to Batavia
via northern Australia. Parts of the southern coast of Australia were also charted
by Dutch mariners: in 1642, Abel Tasman reached southern Tasmania. In 1622,
an English ship, the Trial , following the same route as Tasman, sighted Australia;
later, in 1688, William Dampier reached north-western Australia. The French
navigator, Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, sailed through the Coral Sea in 1768
and came within sight of the Great Barrier Reef.
In 1770, the British navigator, James Cook, charted the eastern coast of
Australia in HMS Endeavour and claimed possession of that land for the British
Crown. After the declaration of independence by the North American colonies,
the British Empire faced a penal crisis that was resolved by sending convicts to
Australia. The first British settlers reached Australia in 1788, when the First
Fleet, commanded by Arthur Phillip, arrived at Botany Bay with a population of
around 1,400 people, consisting mostly of convicts, sailors and marines. The first
European settlements were established at Sydney Cove, Parramatta and Norfolk
Island. Small farming was established on plots of land occupied by emancipated
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