In the year 1628 a colonizing expedition of eleven vessels left Holland for the Dutch East Indies.
Continuing Australia Discovered,
our selection from The Naval Pioneers of Australia by Louis Becke and Walter Jeffrey published in 1899.
The selection is presented in three easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Australia Discovered.
Of the voyages of the Dutch in Australian waters much interesting matter is available. Major sums up the case in these words: “The entire period up to the time of Dampier, ranging over two centuries, presents these two phases of obscurity: that in the sixteenth century — the period of the Portuguese and Spanish discoveries — there are indications on maps of the great probability of Australia having already been discovered, but with no written documents to confirm them; while in the seventeenth century there is documentary evidence that its coasts were touched upon or explored by a considerable number of Dutch voyagers, but the documents immediately describing these voyages have not been found.”
The period of known Dutch discovery begins with the establishment of the Dutch East India Company, and a knowledge of the west coast of Australia grew with the growth of the Dutch colonies, but grew slowly, for the Dutchmen were too busy trading to risk ships and spend time and money upon scientific voyages.
In January, 1644, Commodore Abel Janszoon Tasman was dispatched upon his second voyage of discovery to the South Seas, and his instructions, signed by the Governor-General of Batavia, Antonio van Diemen, begin with a recital of all previous Dutch voyages of a similar character. From this document an interesting summary of Dutch exploration can be made. Tasman, in his first voyage, had discovered the island of Van Diemen, which he named after the then Governor of Batavia, but which has since been named Tasmania, after its discoverer. During this first voyage the navigator also discovered New Zealand, passed round the east side of Australia without seeing the land, and on his way home sailed along the northern shore of New Guinea.
But to come back to the summary of Dutch voyages found in Tasman’s instructions: During 1605 and 1606 the Dutch yacht Duyphen made two exploring voyages to New Guinea. On one trip, the commander, after coasting New Guinea, steered southward along the islands on the west side of Torres Straits to that part of Australia, a little to the west and south of Cape York, marked on modern maps as Duyphen Point, thus unconsciously — for he thought himself still on the west coast of New Guinea — making the first authenticated discovery of the continent.
Dirk Hartog, in command of the Endragt, while on his way from Holland to the East Indies, put into what Dampier afterward called Shark’s Bay, and on an island, which now bears his name, deposited a tin plate with an inscription recording his arrival, and dated October 25, 1616. The plate was afterward found by a Dutch navigator in 1697, and replaced by another, which, in its turn, was discovered in July, 1801, by Captain Hamelin, of the Naturaliste, on the well-known French voyage in search of the ill-fated La Perouse. The Frenchman copied the inscription, and nailed the plate to a post, with another recording his own voyage. These inscriptions were a few years later removed by De Freycinet, and deposited in the museum of the Institute of Paris. Hartog ran along the coast a few degrees, naming the land after his ship, and was followed by many other voyagers at frequent intervals down to the year 1727, from which time Dutch exploration has no more a place in Australian discovery.
During the one hundred twenty-two years of which we have records of their voyages, although the Dutch navigators’ work, compared with that done by Cook and his successors, was of small account, yet, considering the state of nautical science, and that the ships were for the most part Dutch East Indiamen, the Dutch names which still sprinkle the north and the west coasts of the continent show that from Cape York in the extreme north, westward of the great Australian Bight in the south, the Dutchmen had touched at intervals the whole coast line.
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But before leaving the Dutch period there are one or two voyages that, either on account of their interesting or important character, deserve brief mention. In 1623 Arnhem’s Land, now the northern district of the northern territory of South Australia, was discovered by the Dutch yachts Pesa and Arnhem. This voyage is also noteworthy on account of the massacre of the master of the Arnhem and eight of his crew by the natives while they were exploring the coast of New Guinea. In 1627 the first discovery of the south coast was made by the Gulde Zeepard, and the land then explored, extending from Cape Leeuwin to the Nuyts Archipelago, on the South Australian coast, was named after Peter Nuyts, then on board the ship on his way to Batavia, whence he was sent to Japan as ambassador from Holland.
In the year 1628 a colonizing expedition of eleven vessels left Holland for the Dutch East Indies. Among these ships was the Batavia, commanded by Francis Pelsart. A terrible storm destroyed ten of the fleet, and on June 4, 1629, the Batavia was driven ashore on the reef still known as Houtman’s Abrolhos, which had been discovered and named by a Dutch East Indiaman some years earlier — probably by the commander of the Leeuwin, who discovered and named after his ship the cape at the southwest point of the continent. The Batavia, which carried a number of chests of silver money, went to pieces on the reef. The crew of the ship managed to land upon the rocks, and saved some food from the wreck, but they were without water. Pelsart, in one of the ship’s boats, spent a couple of weeks in exploring the inhospitable coast in the neighborhood, in the hope of discovering water, but found so little that he ultimately determined to attempt to make Batavia and from there bring succor to his ship’s company. On July 3d he fell in with a Dutch ship off Java and was taken on to Batavia. From there he obtained help and returned to the wreck, arriving at the Abrolhos in the middle of September; but during the absence of the commander the castaways had gone through a terrible experience, which is related in Therenot’s Recueil de Voyages curieux, and translated into English in Major’s book, from which the following is extracted:
While Pelsart is soliciting assistance, I will return to those of the crew who remained on the island; but I should first inform you that the supercargo, named Jerome Cornelis, formerly an apothecary at Haarlem, had conspired with the pilot and some others, when off the coast of Africa, to obtain possession of the ship and take her to Dunkirk, or to avail themselves of her for the purpose of piracy. This supercargo remained upon the wreck ten days after the vessel had struck, having discovered no means of reaching the shore. He even passed two days upon the mainmast, which floated, and, having from thence got upon a yard, at length gained the land. In the absence of Pelsart, he became commander, and deemed this a suitable occasion for putting his original design into execution, concluding that it would not be difficult to become master of that which remained of the wreck, and to surprise Pelsart when he should arrive with the assistance which he had gone to Batavia to seek, and afterward to cruise in these seas with his vessel. To accomplish this it was necessary to get rid of those of the crew who were not of his party; but before inbruing his hands with blood he caused his accomplices to sign a species of compact, by which they promised fidelity one to another. The entire crew was divided (living upon) between three islands; upon that of Cornelis, which they had named the graveyard of Batavia, was the greatest number of men.
One of them, by name Weybehays, a lieutenant, had been dispatched to another island to seek for water, and having discovered some after a search of twenty days he made the preconcerted signal by lighting three fires, but in vain, for they were not noticed by the people of Cornelis’ company, the conspirators having during that time murdered those who were not of their party. Of these they killed thirty or forty. Some few saved themselves upon pieces of wood, which they joined together, and, going in search of Weybehays, informed him of the horrible massacre that had taken place.
Continued on Monday, November 21st.