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Vast Southern Land is an alternate timeline in which there is a much earlier discovery and colonisation of Australia & New Zealand, with Australia's development instead resembling that of the USA.
Point of Divergence
The 'Age of Discovery' began in the 15th century as European powers - led by Spain and Portugal - embarked on a mission of exploration and expansion of their empires into new frontiers. In the early 1500s, Portugal continued its expansion into Southeast Asia with the aim of gaining more control of the lucrative spice trade. In 1514, the Portuguese reached Timor. From here, they set off for the coast of New Guinea, but instead mistakenly make landfall on the western side of Cape York Peninsula.
Early 1500s: Discovery and initial colony.
- 1514: An error leads Portuguese explorer, Duarte Carneiro to the far north coast of Australia. Here he notices numerous large, densely vegetated inlets. Carneiro follows the coast north to the tip of the peninsula, where he continues his exploration down the east coast. Here he describes 'dense, wet greenery and beaches of the purest white sand.' Carneiro made landfall in a shallow enclave, and on inspection discovered ample sources of fresh water and observed various specimens of exotic flora and fauna, including many exotic fruit species. Carneiro claimed the land for the Portuguese Empire, laying a coin in the sand and proclaiming the land as 'Colônia do Sul' or 'Colony of the South'.
- 1523: Carneiro returns from Portugal, bringing with him 1503 settlers. The town of Praia Branca is founded in the mid north coast, acting as the capital of the new colony. Carneiro continues his exploration of the east coast, where he first encounters the Indigenous peoples of Australia. In attempts to establish communication, the crew offers a variety of foods to the locals, who in return give a cluster of red, cherry-like berries. Carneiro ends his expedition in Moreton Bay. Along the way he identifies 5 major sites for future settlement.
- 1525: First spice and sugar plantations are established. Portugal establishes minor slave trade to boost production in the early settlement. Second fleet arrives, bringing 1471 new settlers. Portugal's claim moves along the coast. Secondary centres are established.
- 1529: Colony is expanding rapidly. Treaty of Saragossa is signed with Spain, limiting Portugal's expansion eastward. With the help of the Aboriginals, native food crops are evaluated for domestication. Population swells to 6709.
- 1540: Early ambitions for a French colony in Australia. Portugal has expanded into the Gulf of Carpenteria, and the domestication of native food has allowed for greater surpluses and the discovery of exotic luxuries. Portugal employs a policy of rapid expansion of plantations across the colony, bolstered by slavery and the 'relocation' of Indigenous Australians. Population hits 33,566.
Late 1500s: Expansion and new interests.
- 1557: French voyage to western Australia. Plans for a settlement pass, preparations begin. Portuguese colony continues expansion west and south, a native spice and fur trade picks up pace, bringing new wealth for the settlements. This encourages increased migration. Population increases to 53,000.
- 1562: France establishes the colony of Cygnenoir in the southwest corner of Australia, founding the settlement of New Lorient with a fleet of 1244 settlers. Spain looks to the east coast for a possible new colony.
- 1578: The Dutch consider prospects of spice settlements in northern Australia. French colony experiences slow growth, establishes connections with native populations to foster a small fur trade.
- 1587: Cygnenoir has grown to a population of 9102 and has established a valuable fur industry. Further domestication of native plants has proved valuable for Colônia do Sul, with the discovery of further luxuries opening new markets and allowing the area to flourish, the population of 103,988 being some of the wealthiest in the world. The Dutch begin major preparations for a northern colony. The British, with the opportunity to establish a colony fading quickly, embarks on a voyage to survey the south-eastern coast for possible locations.
- 1588: The British map the southeast coast of Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. Multiple locations deemed suitable for settlement. A Dutch fleet of settlers embarks for northern Australia.
- 1589: The Dutch establish the colony of Arnhem in northern Australia, centred around the settlement of Durwijk, and with an initial population of 1103. British begin hasty plans for an Australian colony, hoping to beat the Spanish who are already preparing for an east coast settlement.
- 1591: Both British and Spanish fleets head for the east coast. The British manage to arrive at Port Botany just months before the Spanish, establishing the colony of New South Wales at the settlement of Sydney, which has a population of 2108. The Spanish fleet instead move east, establishing the colony of 'Isla del Norte' around the settlement of Puerto Volcán on the northern island of New Zealand.
- 1599: Portugal, unable to expand due to the Dutch and the Treaty of Saragossa, seeks Spanish permission to continue expansion down the east coast. Spain, with the prospects of colonisation off the table, gives the go ahead. Colônia do Sul continues to experience rapid population increases, reaching 147,008. Cygnenoir continues to expand, but is running out of good land. Its population has reached 21,302. Arnhem continues to expand over the north coast, with plantations beginning to make a good profit, the colony is booming. New South Wales rapidly expands, claiming land up and down the coast. A second fleet founds the settlement of Christchurch on the south island of New Zealand, angering the Spanish. Isla del Norte expands to encompass the entire north island.
Early 1600s: Further expansion and clashes
- 1601: New South Wales has expanded to the entirety of the southeast coast, the colony is the fastest growing, with a population of 14,090. French land claims in Cygnenoir peak as arable, temperate land begins to run out. Its population sits at 25,601. The Dutch expand Arnhem - which now has a population of 7012 - to the west to avoid confrontation with the Portuguese in Colônia do Sul, who employ the same strategy, expanding to the east instead, and reaching a population of 152,688. The fertile soils of Isla de Norte allows the population to expand to 5907. The Anglo-Spanish war is still being fought in Europe, and both Britain and Portugal are dreading the thought of their borders getting too close, as they don't want a clash in their colonies. Britain, however, has its sights set on the north island of New Zealand.
- 1604: The Anglo-Spanish war ends and the colonies no longer hesitate to expand near each other, instead rushing to claim land. Britain establishes a settlement in Tasmania. Overall, the colonies in Australia and New Zealand now have a population of 238,011. The Indigenous people in this area have been significantly affected since colonisation, with large portions of the population being killed by aggressive settlers or diseases brought from Europe.
- 1624: New South Wales now encompasses all of Tasmania, South Island and is spreading across the southern coast. Cygnenoire has expanded to the edge of arable lands, though fishing, pearling and dye settlements are spreading up the north coast. Colônia do Sul expands inwards, after reaching its greatest possible extent along the coast. Arnhem continues to spread across the north. A union of many Aboriginal Nations across central Australia begins to fight back at further expansion.
- 1645: Expansion on the coast has all but stopped, instead the colonies work to consolidate their land inwards. A band of Aboriginal Nations in south and central Australia has unified, creating the Gundjiberri territory. France claims New Caledonia, Britain claims Norfolk Island and Fiji.
Late 1600s: Colonisation of the interior and recognition
- 1650: Treaty of Durwijk signed by the peoples of Gundjiberri and Arnhem, acknowledging each other's legitimacy and setting a foundation for the treatment of Indigenous peoples within the colonies. The Dutch pursue cooperation with Gundjiberri as to gain understanding of possible foodstuffs and luxuries in the interior of the continent.
- 1655: Britain launches an invasion on Isla de Norte as part of its attacks on Spanish colonial interests. Domestication of multiple desert 'bushfoods' has provided the ability for colonies to continue their expansions into arid areas, where settlers are increasingly integrating with native life. Cygnenoire signs the Treaty of Durwijk, signifying its changing attitude towards the Indigenous Australians.
- 1659: Britain gains control of Isla de Norte. With territorial expanses reaching their limit, all parties sign the Treaty of Mosman, setting official boundaries and recognising the sovereignty of the territory of Gundjiberri. In exchange for the recognition, the Indigenous peoples of Gundjiberri agree to share the vast natural resources of the continent's interior, and pass on knowledge of the land.
- 1662: Portuguese Restoration War has lead to decades of neglect in Colônia do Sul, and the colony is struggling. A collapse in global sugar trade has compounded these issues. The population of the colony is over 310,000 but declining, as citizens leave for the more productive colonies of New South Wales and Arnhem. Gold has been discovered in New South Wales, and the colony is booming, with the population nearing 500,000. Cyngenoir's population reaches 100,000. Arnhem is steadily growing and nearing 70,000 citizens. Over 45,000 Indigenous peoples live in Gundjiberri, though settlers from the colonies are becoming more common, leading to many deadly clashes.
- 1663: The leaders of New South Wales and Colônia do Sul meet and a deal is arranged. In exchange of payment from the British Empire, Colônia do Sul is handed over. The colony is absorbed, uniting the entire eastern third of the continent. Unrest occurring up and down the borders of Gundjiberri, as reports of abuse and massacre surface. The Gold Rush continues in southern New South Wales, leading to mass migration, largely from Asia, with over 30,000 Chinese settling in the newly booming goldfields. The city of Melbourne is quickly becoming one of the largest in the British Empire, and is already the richest.