I have read on Wikipedia (well, who hasn't) that it was very hard to sail past the tropics from North to South and vice versa without hugging the trade winds, by sailing near the coast of the Equator spanning continents like Africa and South America. This had a lot of impact on the movement of ships and the resulting sea route.


Let's just say that on a certain Earth-sized planet, most of the planet's landmass is concentrated on the Northern Hemisphere, meanwhile on the Southern Hemisphere there is only an Australia-sized mini-continent located at 50-60 degrees latitude. (Just like New Zealand) No chain of islands is connecting the mini-continent with the Northern continent. There also is no equator spanning continent or island.

Now for the question

If the planet's inhabitants had the same maritime technology (ship building, navigation, etc.) as the Age of Sails, will they have difficulties locating the mini-continent? And/or sending ships from the Northern Continents to colonize it?

Even the Maori colonized New Zealand from their Pacific ancestral island, and the British didn't seem to have any significant difficulty claiming remote islands as Her Majesty the Queen's realms.


2 Answers 2


Weather conditions alone will not, the sheer distance involved might though. If ships set out and return saying they sailed for months and found nothing - then after time fewer and fewer ships will be sent out. After all Australia is a big place, but still much smaller than the ocean.

So rather than the fact that ships cannot reach the continent you describe preventing it, the fact that no-one knows it is there will do. Equatorial conditions alone are unlikely to be enough to prevent people getting there.

  • $\begingroup$ The fact that the natives know nothing about and dont consider to sail for it maybe become the plausible reason for the lack of colonization by the natives. So i agree with this answer. But history shows that people tend to be curious and seek the unknown... Greek philosopher has believed that if there are land in Northemisphere (I'm lazy) there must be also land in Southemisphere... So it means that Ship from age of sail can sail past the Equatoriak Current and Doldrum? $\endgroup$ Aug 12, 2015 at 12:13
  • The winds and currents of the equator region could be interesting if there are no land masses to stop them. Would there be a Circumequatorial Current similar to the Antarctic Circumpolar Current?
  • Columbus was funded because he promised all the legendary wealth of China. Would there be legends about the minicontinent to prompt people to search?
  • Determining longitude is harder than determining latitude. So if voyages of discovery have to go north-south, they are harder than east-west. After the first guy comes back with tales of the minicontinent, the next guy sails south and finds Antarctica.
  • $\begingroup$ yes! That's what intrigued me. I really forget about sea currents. Thanks for reminding me... but can a ship from age of sails can safely cross the equator then? $\endgroup$ Aug 12, 2015 at 6:21
  • $\begingroup$ With luck, yes. Would the minicontinent be interesting enough to go there if one in ten ships sinks? One in twenty? One in five? Depends on who and what is there ... $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Aug 12, 2015 at 6:30
  • $\begingroup$ It's unhabitated... full of temperate forest... the land was quite flat with few mountains (since it was an old continent like Australia)...The fauna was no bigger than a horse with wolves as apex predator... but it was about 5000 km away from the southernmost tip of northern hemisphere landmass. I dont know if that interesting.... maybe its full with giant seabirds... $\endgroup$ Aug 12, 2015 at 6:35
  • $\begingroup$ So they would risk their life to find nothing in particular? Sounds as appealing as settling Antarctica -- which was limited to some whalers setting up shop in the vincinity. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Aug 12, 2015 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ So we can safely assume that: lack of favorable trade-wind, the existence of the Circumequatorial Current, the lack of natives knowledge of the minicontinent, and the limited reward for founding it would be the main barrier of the colonization of the Southern Hemisphere. $\endgroup$ Aug 12, 2015 at 16:09

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