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A Corruption of European History - Buache's Map of 1739
Part 3: Buache and the Europeans

More of this Feature
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: The Atlanteans

From Other Guides
Modern Antarctica

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Charting Imaginary Worlds

Buache's 1739 map is complete, and clearly depicts the Southern Hemisphere. A large landmass fills the centre of the map, divided into two halves by a channel and sea, while the southern peninsula's of South America and Africa are visible, as is the southern coast of Australia. The map contains considerable annotation, and the first thing anybody dealing with a document in a foreign language should do is to obtain a translation; the last thing you do is publish. Hancock and friends appear to have done the opposite. Buache's heading describes the area depicted: "MAP OF THE SOUTHERN LANDS, encompassing the area between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Pole, where one sees the new discoveries in 1739 south of the Cape of Good Hope."(Quache*) The question of accuracy is particularly straightforward; New Zealand is shown as part of the larger landmass, a clear inaccuracy. However, notes on the map render any claims of sub-glacial geography moot, because Buache states that the map is a composite taken from the accounts of sailors who had scouted the ice-cap: "Drawn from the memories and from the original map of Monsier de Lozier Bouvet Chargé of this expedition."(Quache) The right hand side of the map contains an account of this expedition that, along with other portions of the map, mentions icebergs. Indeed, you don't even need to translate the document to see that icebergs have been illustrated on the map, but if you do, Buache has provided descriptions of their size: "from 2 to 300 feet high. And from one half league up to 2 or 3 leagues of circumference".(Quache) This is clearly not an ice-free Antarctica. Buache's annotations are very honest - he never claims the map is accurate, even writing Conjecturée - Conjecture - on some of the features.These annotations are always overlooked in works attempting to prove the existence of ancient civilisations, but for anyone interested in European history they are fascinating. They document the concerted effort European sailors were making to explore, and map, the Antarctic regions in the 1730's. Bouvet is recognised as a pioneer in Antarctic exploration, and on his voyage of 1738-9, documented on Buache's map, he discovered an island which still bears his name. The discoveries of the Breton Yves Kerguelen de Trémarec, and the Britain James Cook, followed Bouvet several decades later. Buache has added the route of Abel Tasman, whose name has been given to Tasmania, from almost a century before.

While psuedoscientific claims detract from Bouvet's achievements, they also ignore the whole life and work of Buache, who was anything other than a mere copyist. Born in Paris in 1700, he studied at the French Academy of Sciences, where he won first prize for architecture in 1721, and then used his drawing skills to join the Ministry of the Navy. Here, he focused on cartography and geography, before becoming geographer to the king in 1729, and then geographer in the Academy of Sciences; he was the first to hold the position. Buache didn't simply draw maps, instead he was an academic who researched, eventually becoming a Professor of Geography in 1755. One of Buache's essays introduced the idea of drainage basins into the study of mountains, rivers and continental geography, while much of his work attempted to examine, filter, and combine reports from sailors, to deduce the shape of the world. He predicted the existence of Alaska years before it was officially discovered. Of course, Buache made mistakes that might look ludicrous to us - his 1739 map, with its large central polar sea, is proof enough - but for a theoretical geographer trying to predict the world that was inevitable.

Buache's map of 1739 is a combination of three basic factors. European explorers and geographers had been convinced for many years that a great southern continent existed, and representations are present on many maps; it would have been unusual not to find one on Buache's. Secondly, the 1739 map illustrates a procedure that Bauche followed for much of his life - charting and understanding the first-hand reports of sailors. Finally, the map reveals the early stage of one of Buache's conclusions. In 1763 the Gentleman's Magazine, a journal famous in the 18th century, published 'Geographical and Physical Observations, including a Theory of the Antarctic Regions, and the frozen Sea which they are supposed to contain, according to the Hypothesis of the celebrated M. Buache'. In this he explained his ideas, that in order to produce huge icebergs the Southern pole must contain a frozen sea, fed by vast mountain ranges and rivers. The large central basin shown on his 1739 map is a precursor to this idea.

This examination has never intended to refute the myriad theories associated with ancient civilisations, or to single Hancock out for attack, rather, it has attempted to alter the recent depiction of Philippe Bauche. However, his map does not depict an ice-free Antarctica, and nor was it ever meant to. Instead of being "based on source maps made earlier, perhaps thousands of years earlier..." (Graham Hancock, Fingerprints of the Gods, 18), the 1739 map was a composite made from the first-hand reports of explorers. Buache was the senior geographer in France for many years, developing his theories with both some success, and a good deal of failure. His 1739 map is part of a European wide attempt to explore and record the shape of the world. Maps were made, records examined, and many theories were proposed which, even if they proved wrong, were still part of an grand intellectual effort. Europeans did not inherit their knowledge of Antarctica, they had to go and find it.

*Note: The Quache quotations were taken from a a web page which is now sadly offline; the full details were: ttp://www.bermuda-triangle.org/ Theories/Electromagnetism/Worlds_Below__/ Legend_of_the_Lost/Buache_Map/buache_map.html (Spaces added for ease of reproduction.)

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For Citation And Footnotes
Title: A Corruption of European History - Buache's Map of 1739
Author: Robert Wilde
Date: 2001

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