The smallest continent and the only one existing as an independent country, comprising six states and one territory. Its capital is canberra. It was first sighted by the spanish in the early 17th century and at that time explored by the dutch who named it new holland. Stories dating from the 2d century a.d. Tell of a "terra australis incognita", unknown southern land. In the 19th century, the continent was circumnavigated by the english explorer matthew finders, who gave it its original name modified as terra australis (no longer "incognita"), shortened later to Australia.

(12 Dec 1998)