Where Australia Collides with Asia

The Epic Voyages of Joseph Banks, Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace and the Origin of On the Origin of Species

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This book follows the epic voyages of natural history of Continent Australia, Joseph Banks, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace.

The voyage of ContinentAustralia after it breaks away from Antarctica 50 million years ago with its raft of Gondwanaland flora and fauna and begins its journey north towards the equator.

The voyage of Joseph Banks on the Endeavour  who with Daniel Solander became the first trained naturalists to describe the unique flora and fauna of Continent Australia that had evolved during its 30 million years of isolation.

The voyage of Charles Darwin on the Beagle, who after his observations in South America and the Galapagos Islands, sat on the banks of the Coxs River in New South Wales and tried to rationalize his belief in the idea of biblical creation and understand the origin of species.

The voyage of Alfred Russel Wallace, who realised that the Lombok Strait in Indonesia, represents the biogeographical boundary between the fauna of Asia and those of Australasia. On the Asian side are elephants, tigers, primates and specific birds. On the Australasian side are marsupials such as the possum-like cuscus and the Aru wallaby, as well as birds specific to Australia such as white cockatoos, brush turkeys and the spectacular Birds of Paradise.

It was tectonic movement that brought these disparate worlds together and it was Alfred Russel Wallace's 'Letter from Ternate' that forced Charles Darwin to finally publish his landmark work On the Origin of Species.   


Published by Rosenberg Publishing in August 2017

What Burnet achieves in his wonderfully illustrated and narrated book is to relate the important role the Indonesian archipelago has played in the intellectual history of the West. In their separate voyages Banks, Darwin and Wallace discovered the astounding diversity of the southern hemisphere’s natural world, and it was through their observations that the enlightenment truly came of age. Western thought found it could not reconcile the static divine word of the Bible with the diverse and ever-evolving scientific reality of the natural world.
... Ian Burnet’s very perceptive use of quotes from their public writings and private diaries allow us to see through their eyes the world they found and understand the intellectual problems it raised for them.
... Like the geology of the earth we live on, and like British society that founded modern Australia this wonderfully enlightening and delightful book is many layered.
— The Indonesia Institute, Dr. Ron Witton
I would like to thank Ian Burnet for writing Where Australia Collides with Asia. In his book he explains the significance of the work of these great scientists and states clearly the key place that our Asian neighbourhood has played in their ideas. It brings to life not just Darwin and Wallace but others such as Joseph Banks, Captain James Cook, Captain Robert FitzRoy of the Beagle and many others. Written in an easy to read style, with many illustrations, we are introduced to these individuals as real people and the personalities behind their famous names ...
The decades Ian has spent living and travelling in Indonesia and his training as a geologist, have contributed many wonderful layers to this book. The fact that the first of the voyages he writes about is the voyage of the tectonic plates - the voyage of continent Australia - is a wonderful way to start his narrative as it ideally provides background to what is to come.
I commend this book - you will be drawn into another world - a world that has a deep effect on the way we see ourselves and life around us today.

— - Asia Bookroom, Sally Burdon
These voyagers are the three brilliant English naturalists who take the empirical natural sciences from their infancy to an epiphany in a bit less than a century. The first is the wealthy young Banks who self funds himself onto James Cook’s circumnavigation, England’s first great voyage of deliberate scientific discovery. En route, Banks and his entourage are the first to scientifically record Australia’s utterly unique flora.
Darwin is even younger when good luck puts him on HMS Beagle for its five-year charting voyage. This exposes him to South American fossils, Galapagos Islands finches and New South Wales platypuses. Back home, Darwin incubates the idea of natural selection, but nervous about dethroning the stern Victorian Lord God of Creation, makes no anouncement.
Wallace is a self-educated working man who sells rare beetles, bird and animal skins for a living. He journeys across the East Indies travelling on mail boats, sailing ships, early steamers, schooners, native prahus and dugout canoes. In a malarial fever-dream he hits upon the idea of natural selection, synthesising all that he has observed in his many years of tropical travels, his letter from Ternate forces Darwin to finally get his masterpiece ‘On the Origin of Species’ into print.

Ian Burnet reminds us that Alfred Russel Wallace is not only the independent co-discoverer of evolution but also a founder of the science of bio-geography as in the discovery of the Wallace Line which separates the species of Asia from Australasia. He has applied his customary skills, in taking the vast bibliographies that document the lives and voyages of the three English naturalists and turning them into an easy and engaging read.
For me though he’s at his best leading us through the less familiar discoveries and principles of plate tectonics - which is after all professional home territory for him. Explanations of the slow motion ballet of continents in motion verge on poetry in places.

— Jeffrey Mellefont, Research Associate, Australian National Maritime Museum
Some historical narratives can be difficult to follow when they are punctuated by countless footnotes and bibliographical references, or broken by a frequent need to delve into appendices. Ian Burnet frees his work from these impediments. By seamlessly embedding his sources he has produced an almost conversation style. The result is an erudite narrative flow, free of distractions. ...
The selection of photographs, maps and illustrations in this publication not only add graphical power to the work but also display Ian Burnet’s meticulous patient gathering of archival material.

— Maximos Russell Darnley, Writing in a Borderless World
Ian Burnet has gathered in this book the stories of captains, explorers, naturalists and scientists who all had a profound influence on how we came to understand the world. It is an easy read - and each chapter left me wanting more. It begins with the story of Captain Cook and (the rather vain) Joseph Banks on their epic voyage begun in 1768. Banks returned to London with a treasure chest of botanical specimens and drawings. It was a time when those interested in the natural sciences were desperate to see new creatures: birds, beetles, plants etc from remote corners of the world. It was if the world was waiting to be catalogued. Burnet tells the story partly through the diaries of these men and it is an engrossing read. The story of Charles Darwin and his growing understanding of how creatures evolved and diversified is enthralling. Darwin started out as an unlikely hero. Then came Alfred Russel Wallace and the story of his eureka moment is something of legend. This is a most enjoyable book with lots of illustrations.

— Anne M. Chappel, author of Zanzibar Uhuru, posted on Amazon
Away from the confines of a dusty school textbook, Banks, Darwin and Wallace are brought to life. Here we get to know them as flesh and blood, subject to the same social pressures as we are; the same excitements and disappointments, arguments and friendships, loves and jealousies, seasickness, hangovers, fevers ... and bright mornings when, as Darwin describes his time in Argentina, he had ‘the sky for a roof and the ground for a table’.
The writing is robust; no-nonsense. It is the writing of a man who means business and it builds trust. The story is light and entertaining yet full of insight. Through the frequent use of excerpts from Banks, Darwin and Wallace’s own writing, we get to see the world through their eyes. And through this we get occasional glimpses of a wry, understated humour.
These were men of the world: artists, writers, scientists, adventurers, seafarers. It raises the question, where are these men and women today? After reading this book I am inclined to answer that Ian Burnet may be one of them - a scientist, an historian, a traveller, and a fine writer.

— Mark Heyward, The Jakarta Post
Another must read special from Ian Burnet, pulling together the work of Darwin, Wallace and Banks in an informative and beautfully illustrated book ...
Burnet carefully allows the words of the main characters to tell the tale whilst writing the the linking explanatory pieces in clear understated style ..
His sympathies clearly lie with Wallace - who had reached much the same conclusions as Darwin on evolution but was overshadowed by the publication of ‘Origin of Species’ ...
But it is not a story of heroes and villians - just three scientists travelling to the ends of the Earth and trying to explain, what to them looked un-explainable. Very clear, very concise, very good writing.

— Rob Wallace, Amazon Book Review
On every page of ‘Where Australia Collides with Asia’ the reader is embarking on yet another adventure - whether it be to the isolated Galapogas Islands, upriver on the wild Amazon,
to the Land Down Under, to the deep interior of Borneo, to the remote islands of the Banda Sea or across the Argentinian pampas while discovering surprising new worlds of landforms, animal and plant life and races of people. One can sense the author’s excitement and his desire to infect others with his love of nature.
Burnet has a knack for revealing the most beguiling personality traits and idiosyncrasies of historical figures - the vanity of scientist Joseph Banks, the puritanism of botanical artist Sydney Parkinson, Darwin’s inordinate predilection for cataloging exotic insects and Wallace’s good nature and unbreakable fortitude even under the most trying circumstances.
The frequent quotes from the journals and letters of the main characters enable us to peer inside the minds of these great scientists to learn of their innermost doubts, jealousies, prejudices and secret pleasures. But above all this is an explorer’s book about the adventures of intrepid men with ample doses of science, anthropology and natural history thrown in for good measure.

— Bill Dalton, The Bali Advertiser

Watch this amazing animation of the voyage of Continent Australia after it breaks off from Antartica and Gondwanaland. Created by Sabin Zahirovic, School of Geosciences, University of Sydney