Discovery of Australia: The Tercentenary [1 September 1916]

[Editor: An article regarding Dirk Hartog’s discovery of Australia. Published in The Western Mail, 1 September 1916.]

Discovery of Australia.

The Tercentenary.

On the 25th of October next it will be exactly 300 years since the first white men who left a definite record of their visit landed in Australia. The following quotation from the Western Australian Year Book for 1906 shows that Dirk Hartogs arrived at the island named after him on October 25, 1616:—

“In 1616 Dirk Hartogs (Hartochsz), in command of the Dutch vessel Eendragt, or Eendracht (Concord), supercargo Cornelis Buysero, outward bound from Holland to the Indies, entered Shark Bay, and gave his name to the island upon the western side of the bay. The name ‘Dor Eylandt,’ or ‘Dorre Eylandt’ (Barren Island) was then, or subsequently, given to the largest island at the entrance of the bay. A tin plate nailed to a post erected at the north end of Dirk Hartogs Island remained for many years a memento of his visit. His countryman, William De Vlaming, who visited the island in 1697, relates that he found the plate on the 4th of February of that year, and taking it away with him, entrusted it to the Governor-General at Batavia, who forwarded it to the Board of Seventeen Directors of the Dutch East India Company in Holland, the president of which was, at that time, Burgomaster Nicolass Witsen. Vlaming gave a rendering of the inscription, which, translated from the Dutch, runs as follows:—

Anno 1616, the 25th of October. — Arrived here the ship Eendracht, of Amsterdam; the first merchant Gillis Miebais of Liege. Dirck Hartogs, of Amsterdam, captain. 27th Do. — Sailed for Bantam.

On the lower part, cut with a knife, were to be read in Dutch the words:—

The Under Merchant Jan Steyn, Upper Steersman, Pieter Ledoecker of Bil. Anno 1616.

“Such, at least was the wording of the duplicate plate which he caused to be substituted for the one removed. The original plate of Dirk Hartogs was discovered in 1902 by Mr. J. F. L. De Balbain Verster, in the ‘Rijks-Museum’ (State museum) at Amsterdam, and it was then seen that the latter part of the inscription thereon reads as follows:—

The Under Merchant Jan Stins, Upper Steersman, Pieter Dockes of Bil. Anno 1616.

“Vlaming’s inscription was seen by Captain Hamelin, of the French exploring vessel Naturaliste, in 1801; but the plate had disappeared in January, 1822, when King caused a careful search to be made for it. This disappearance can be accounted for by a statement made by De Freycinet to the effect that he had removed it and deposited it for safe keeping in the museum of the French Institute, which fact is referred to in the minutes of the society, dated March 23, 1821. In spite, however, of this statement, a careful search very recently made by the secretary of the institute has failed to discover its present whereabouts.

“Dirk Hartogs examined the coastline between south latitude 26deg. 30min. and 23 deg., and called the intervening country ‘Eendracht’s Land.’”

The event is also referred to in the following words in “The part borne by the Dutch in the discovery of Australia,” by Professor J. E. Heeres, of Leiden, the greatest living authority on the subject of the early Dutch explorations.

“In the year 1616 the Dutch ship Eendracht, commanded by Dirk Hartogs, on her voyage from the Cape of Good Hope to Batavia, unexpectedly touched at ‘divers islands, but uninhabited,’ and thus for the first time surveyed part of the west coast of Australia. As early as 1619 this coast, thus accidentally discovered was known by the name of ‘Eendrachtsland,’ or ‘Land van de Eendracht.’ The vagueness of the knowledge respecting the coastline then discovered, and its extent, is not inaptly illustrated in a small map of the world found in ‘Gerardi Mercatoris Atlas sive Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica mundi et fabricata figura. De nove . . . auctus studio Judoci Hondij (Amsterodami; Sumptibus Johannis Cloppenburgij. Anno 1632.)’ If, however, we compare this map of the world with Keppler’s map of 1630, we become aware that Hondius has not recorded all that was then known in Europe respecting the light which since 1616 European explorers had thrown on the question of the western coastline of Australia. In Keppler’s map, namely, besides the English discovery of the Trial Rocks (1662), and the name “T. Landt van Eendracht” in fat characters, passing from the north to the south, we meet with the following names, which the smaller letters show to have been intended to indicate subordinate parts of Eendrachtsland : ‘Jac Rommer Revier,’ ‘Dirck Hartogs ree,’ ‘F. Houtmans aebrooleus,’ and ‘Dedells lant.’ What is more, Keppler’s map also exhibits the south-west coast of Australia.

“Whence all those names? The answer to this question, and at the same time various other new features, are furnished by the chart of Hessel Gerritez of 1627, and by the one dated 1618, in which corrections have been introduced after date. The 1627 chart is specially interesting. Gerritsz, at the time cartographer in ordinary to the East India Company, ‘put together this chart of the Landt van d’Eendracht from the journals and drawings of the Steersmen, which means that he availed himself of authentic data He acquitted himself of the task to admiration, and has given a very lucid survey of the (accidental) discoveries made by the Dutch on the west coast of Australia. In this chart of 1627 the Land of d’Eendracht takes up a good deal of space. T0 the north it is found bounded By the ‘Willems-rivier,’ discovered in July, 1618, by the ship Mauritius, commanded by Willem Janszoon. According to the chart this ‘river’ is in about 21deg. 45min. S. lat., but there are no reliable data concerning this point. If we compare Hessel Gerritsz’s chart with those on which (about 1700) the results of Willem De Vlamingh’s expedition of 1696-7 were recorded, we readily come to the conclusion that the ship Mauritius must have been in the vicinity of Vlaming Head (N.W. Cape) on the Exmouth Gulf. From Willem Janszoon’s statements it also appears that on this occasion in 22deg. an ‘island (was) discovered, and a landing effected.’ The island extended N.N.E. and S.S.W. on the west side. The land-spit west of Exmouth Gulf may very possibly have been mistaken for an island. From this point then the Eendrachtsland of the old Dutch navigators begins to extend southward. To the question, how far it was held to extend, I answer that in the widest sense of the term (Land van Eendracht or the South-land) it reached as far as the south coast, at all events past the Perth of our day. In a more restricted sense it extended to about 25deg. S. lat. In the latter sense it included the entrance to Shark Bay, afterwards entered by Dampier, and Dirk Hartogs Island, likewise discovered by Dirk Hartogs.”

Professor Heeres, in the same book, adduces strong indirect proof that the Dutch paid an earlier visit to Australia when, in 1605, the ship Duifken, commanded by Willem Jansz. surveyed what can only have been the east coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria, as far as about 13deg. 45min., viz. to Cape “Keerweer” (Turnagain).

As, however, Dirk Hartogs’ visit has been authenticated by indisputable records, its date, viz., the 25th of October, 1616, may be considered as the first definitely ascertained date when white men landed in Australia.

The Western Mail (Perth, WA), 1 September 1916, p. 11

Editor’s notes:
divers = a number of items (all of which are not necessarily different, they may all be identical, i.e. distinct from “diverse”), several, sundry, various; “divers” is also an archaic spelling variant of “diverse” (a number of items which are different to each other, a wide range of various types)

tercentenary = an anniversary of 300 years; also known as a “tricentenary”

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