[Editor: This article was published in The Cairns Post (Cairns, Qld.), 2 December 1942.]
November 24 was the 300th anniversary of the famous Dutch navigator, Abel Janszoon Tasman’s discovery of the island which later was to be called Tasmania. He made this discovery during his journey to explore the unknown Southland, the South-East coast of Nova Guinea and the surrounding islands.
Abel Tasman had left Batavia on August 14, 1642, with his exploration “fleet” of two ships, the Heemskerck and the small Zeehean, following the instruction of the Governor-General of the Netherlands East Indies, Anthony van Diemen, to explore the unknown country, which the scientists of those days expected to be south of the Indies.
Had Tasman followed the sailing schedule which he took with him, he would never have seen the shores of what is now Australia, but his luck was with him when he followed the “good west winds” which brought him, 300 years ago, to Tasmania’s west coast.
Tasman called the land he found, and which he did not think was an island, but part of the vast continent the explorers dreamt of, Anthony van Diemen Landt, in honour of the Governor-General of the Netherlands Indies. The two mountains on Tasmania which Tasman could see from his first anchorage were later named by a sensitive explorer Mt. Heemskerck and Mt. Zeehean, after the names of the ships of Tasman’s fleet.
However, Tasman’s men did not land before December 2, when 18 men from the two ships spent the entire day examining the strange new country. The bay where they landed was called Frederick Hendrick Bay, after a brother of the Prince of Oranje. The shores of this bay, now Blackman’s Bay, is the first place where Europeans landed on the soil of Tasmania.
After November 24, Tasman took 11 days to explore a great part of the coast, but, as he did not sail around the island, he left with the idea that he had discovered the coast of the vast unknown southland.
Before leaving his new discovery, Tasman tried to follow instructions to claim officially the new discovered land for his Dutch commissionaries. By then the sea had become so rough, however, that his boats could not land again to plant the “Princevlag” — the flag of the Prince of Oranje — the orange, white and blue. The ship’s carpenter, however, swam with the flag to the shore of Tasmania and planted the proud tri-colour.
Tasman left the Tasmanian coast to discover — without seeing any more of Ausralia — New Zealand and the Fiji Islands.
The Cairns Post (Cairns, Qld.), 2 December 1942, p. 2
[Editor: Changed “seen the shorees” to “seen the shores”.]