The Story of Australia — II
Coming of the Dutch
It was on November 28, 1605, that the Dutch ship, the “Duyfhen” (or the “Dove”), sailed away from Java to explore the islands of New Guinea. She sailed along what was thought to be the west side of that country, and then turned south-eastward, passing Torres Strait, without any thought of whether or not there was a passage, until she came to that part of Australia a little to the west and south of Cape York, which we know as the Gulf of Carpentaria. Her commander was under the impression that he was on the west coast of New Guinea, and was quite unconscious that, in the month of March, 1606, he had discovered the great South Land which had been the dream of man for ages.
It proved to be a very unfortunate visit. Some of the crew of the Duyfhen were sent ashore to obtain fresh water and to trade with the natives. The latter were very hostile, and killed nine of the visitors before they could return to the ship.
The loss of the crew and want of provisions brought the enterprise to a close, and the Duyfhen sailed homewards. The furthest point of land, which was probably the scene of the massacre, was called Cape Keer-Weer, or Turnagain.
Historic Dinner Plate
Ten years after the Dove had found the land by accident, another Dutch man, Dirck Hartog, reached the west coast. He explored part of the coast in his ship, “Eendraght,” (or “Concord”), and landed on an island, at the entrance of what Dampier afterwards named Shark Bay. He marked the event by nailing an old tin dinner plate to a post, on which he scratched the following message:—
“On the 25th of October, 1616, arrived here the ship “Eendraght,” of Amsterdam; the first merchant, Giles Mibals Van Luyck; Captain Dirck Hartog, of Amsterdam; under-merchant, Jam Stoyn; upper steersman, Pieter Dockes, from Bil Ao 1616.”
It is a remarkable fact that Dirck Hartog’s writing on the old tin dinner plate is the first document in the history of Australia. Eighty years afterwards another Dutchman, named Vlaming, captain of the “Geelvint,” landed on the same spot, and knocked down Dirck’s post and put up a tin of his own. But that was not the end of the old plate. In 1804 Captain Hamelin, of the French ship “Naturaliste,” found it buried in the sand. He carried it home to France, and no more was heard of it until 1902, when it was discovered safe and sound in the State Museum of Amsterdam. It can be seen to-day, with Dirck’s message deeply scratched upon it. Dirck’s name is on the map for ever, at Dirk Island, Shark Bay.
Other Dutch navigators coasted, some a few score miles, some a few hundred, along the north and west, but none was impressed with the country or the natives. In 1622 the Leeuwin (Lioness) touched on the west coast, and the south-west cape of Australia is named from the vessel. The following year Jan Carstens, in the Pera and Arnhem, landed on the north-west coast. Several of the crew of the Arnhem were murdered by the blacks. In 1627 the Guilde Zeepard (Golden Walrus) followed the south coast for 800 miles and named it Peter Nuyts Land, in honour of Peter Nuyts, a Dutch official on board at the time.
In 1629 the Batavia was wrecked on the reef on the west coast called Houtman Abrolhos. Captain Francis Pelsart, leaving the bulk of the crew, set off to seek for water on the main land. The prospect was so hopeless that they decided to go to Batavia for help. On their way they were picked up by a Dutch ship and taken to that port. The Governor immediately ordered a ship to sail to the relief of the shipwrecked party, but during their absence some of the crew mutinied, murdered their companions and planned to kill Pelsart, seize his ship, and become pirates.
When the relief ship arrived Pelsart guessed by their manner what had happened, and as they rowed out to meet him he presented his guns at them and threatened to kill all that did not surrender. Having learned what had happened, Pelsart caused all but two to be hanged. The two whom he spared were put ashore on the mainland and left to themselves. What their fate was no one knows.
The Dutch now determined to make a more thorough exploration of the uninviting south land, and in 1641 Anthony Van Diemen, Governor-General of Batavia, chose Abel Jans Tasman to command the expedition. In 1642 two ships, the Heenskirt and the Zeehaen, sailed from Batavia to Mauritius.
From here a south-easterly course was taken, but driven by the west trade wind he missed the south coast of Australia. On November 24 land was sighted; it was the land which is now called Tasmania in honour of the man who discovered it, but which he loyally called Van Diemen’s Land, after his chief.
On December 5 Tasman sailed east again, and eight days afterwards sighted a mountainous country, which he named Staaten Land, and anchored in the strait between what is now called the North and Middle Islands of New Zealand. Here he had trouble with the natives. A boat’s crew was purposely rammed and capsized by a canoe, three seamen being killed. Tasman named the spot Murderer’s Bay, and proclaimed the natives as enemies.
Tasman now sailed northwards into the Pacific Ocean, and discovered the islands which Captain Cook later on named the Friendly Islands. He now set a course for Batavia, arriving there on June 15, 1643.
He made a second voyage in 1644. He sailed along the north coast and a portion of the west. This expedition resulted in a map giving the first reliable outline of the coast of Australia as then known. As yet the east coast and portions of the west and south had not been visited and were still blank.
The Dutch took no further interest in Australia after the second voyage of Tasman. To them it consisted of barren coasts, islands peopled by poor and brutal natives, and of very little use to the Dutch East India Company. Australia still remained ownerless, awaiting her true destiny.
(Next week: William Dampier, the first Englishman to visit Australia.)
The Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Qld.), 24 June 1934, p. 30
[Editor: Corrected “impresed” to “impressed”; “capsibed” to “capsized”.]