Abel Janszoon Tasman: His Life and Voyages

Read before the Royal Society of Tasmania on the 25th November 1895
James Backhouse Walker, F.R.G.S.

The Great Discovery Voyages to the Southland, 1642-1644

The Unknown South Land

Tasman was now in his fortieth year. In ten years wanderings and fightings in the service of the Company he had grown enured to hardships and danger. He was familiar with the great trade routes from Europe to India, with the intricacies of the waters of the Eastern Archipelago, and with the navigation of the seas of China and Japan. He had sailed a thousand miles beyond the limits reached by any previous navigator into the unknown and mysterious regions of the cold and stormy North Pacific Ocean. In his many voyages he had proved himself a keen trader, a capable and daring seaman, a bold fighter , and an able commander. He was now ready to undertake the great adventure, the crowning achievement of his adventurous life -that voyage to the great south land, which as a Dutch historian says, "must specially immortalise him; the expedition which must ever give him an honourable place amongst the greatest navigators and discoverers."

The Great Unknown Southern Continent -Terra Australia Incognita, or Nondum Cognita- had for ages been the dream of geographers. The ancient cosmographers had formulated a theory as to the existence of a huge continent in the south, which they considered necessary to balance the large continents in the Northern Hemisphere. The discovery of North and South America only lent fresh weight to this conjecture, and it was commonly supposed in the 16th and 17th centuries - and indeed was an almost an article of faith- that below the equator was a huge continent which had still to be discovered and explored.

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It was in 1513 that the Spaniard Vasco Nunez de Balboa first saw the pacific from a mountain in Panama. Ferdinand Magellan was the first to enter it. Leaving Spain 1519, with 5 small ships of from 130 to 60 tons, this heroic navigator felt his way through the Strait which bears his name, and crossing the great ocean, after months of suffering reached the Ladrones. He himself was killed at the Philippines , but one of his ships, the Victoria, with a handful of men, returned to Spain, after a voyage lasting three years, having been the first to circumnavigate the globe. Magellan voyage was prompted by the desire of Spain to find a way to the Moluccas on the west, with the object of disputing the claims of Portugal, and wresting from her the spice trade. With a similar object, the Spanish Viceroys of Mexico and Peru dispatched various expeditions to the Moluccas. In one of these voyages in 1528, Saavedra, sent out by Cortez, sighted New Guinea, which had previously been seen by the Portuguese. In 1564, the Philippines were colonised by the Spaniards. In another voyage, in 1568 Mendana discovered the Solomons, and brought to Peru such a glowing account of their wealth that in 1595 he was dispatched with a fleet to found a settlement there. He failed, however, to find the islands, and unsuccessfully attempted to plant a colony on Santa Cruz. Fernandoz do Cuiros, his pilot on the voyage, was firmly persuaded that here at last was the great Terra Australis. He petitioned the King of Spain to be allowed to colonise it, and in his memorial "it is soberly affirmed to be a terrestrial paradise for wealth and pleasure". He declares that the country abounds in fruit and animals, in silver and pearls, probably also in gold, and is nothing inferior to Guinea in the land of Negroes.

In 1605 Cuiros set out from Peru with a powerful fleet, to settle a plantation in the southern paradise. On a large island which he discovered, and which he took to be part of the southern continent, and named Australia del Espiritu Santo -it is in fact one of the New Hebrides- he founded the short lived and unfortunate town of New Jerusalem. One of his companions, Louis Paz de Torres, separated from the fleet and steered westwards, sailing through the Strait which now bears his name, and skirting the south coast of New Guinea. The first Englishman to enter the Pacific was Sir Francis Drake. In his famous voyage in 1577 he stole through Magellan Strait, fell upon and plundered the Spanish settlements in Peru, and, following Magellans track across the South Sea, made the Moluccas, and returned to England laden with booty.

In the latter part of the 16th and early part of the 17th centuries, several Dutch navigators accomplished similar circumnavigation. All these expeditions crossed the Pacific near the Equator, and though they discovered islands they threw no light on the problem of the Terra Australis. More important was the voyage of the Dutch navigators LeMaire and Schouten in 1616. They found a new passage into the South sea, between Tierra del Fuego and Staatenland. Sailing through the Strait of LeMaire, they reached the open sea, doubled Cape Horn, and crossed the Pacific at a higher latitude than Magellan and Drake. Being so far to the south as 17 S latitude, they confidently expected to fall in with the Great South Land, but were constantly disappointed, finding nothing but a few islands. LeMaire's ships , on reaching Batavia after their long voyage, were seized and confiscated by his countryman Governor-General Cohen, for having come into the Indies in violation of the charter of monopoly of the Dutch Est India Company. This damped the ardour of explorers for many years, so much son that for nearly a century no Dutch navigator ventured again to attempt the circumnavigation of the globe.

These various expeditions had somewhat circumscribed the possible area within which the south land might be found. Still the old cartographers found the idea of a sea full of island so little in harmony with their prepossessions, that in the early part of the 17th C (even so late as 1640) they boldly drew on their maps of the world a huge Terra Australis Nondum Cognita. This was depicted as surrounding the South Pole, and occupying a very considerable portion of the Southern Hemisphere. In the South Atlantic the Promontorium Terrae Australis jutted northwards toward Africa. On the West only the narrow Straits of Magellan and LeMaire broke its continuity with South America and gave the sole means of passage into the South Sea. On the eastern side this continent of the mapmakers blocked all access to the Pacific. It extended in a solid but gradually narrowing mass from the pole up to the very Equator. In this respect the maps were a jumble, compounded of discoveries, actually made but imperfectly known, fitted onto a baseless theory. It is pretty certain that Portuguese ships sailing from the eastern archipelago had somewhere between 1512 and 1542 seen the northwest coast of Australia and that these discoveries were vaguely indicated on some of the early charts. They appeared on the cartographers maps as the land Beach, exceedingly rich in gold. New Guinea had been sighted by the Portuguese, Maneses in 1511, and again by the Spaniard Saavedra in 1528; therefor Nova Guinea appeared as the most northerly extension as the continent under the Equator -sometimes as an island separated by a narrow strait, sometimes as an integral part of the continent itself. Beyond New Guinea it is probable that the reported discovery by the Portuguese of certain vague and imperfectly known lands forming part of the coast of Australia justified the delineation of the north eastern shores of the continent. But from the point where information failed, imagination stepped in, boldly carrying the coastline from Queensland down in a south-easterly direction to Magellan Strait and Cape Horn, and filling the South Pacific with an imaginary continent.

When the Dutch had established themselves in the eastern Archipelago, their spirit of enterprise and adventure, and their ambition to win new realms for the Companies trade, were only stimulated by their unprecedented success. It became an object of ardent desire to the home directors, the Council of Seventeen, and to the successive Governors-General of the Indies, to explore the mystery of the Great Southland; if per chance they might there find a second Mexico or Peru, rich in Gold or Silver or new spice islands, to increased the profits of their trade, or , at the least, to discover a direct way from the eastern possessions, by the Great South Sea, to Peru and Chile, which would make it easy for them to harass and plunder the Spanish ships and the settlements of South America.

It was in 1605 -only three years after the foundation of the company- that the first attempt was made; and the object of this expedition was limited to the exploration of the regions lying to the east of the Banda islands. With this view, the Duyfke (Little Dove or Darling) sailed from Batavia in 1605, visited the island of Aru, sailed along the south coast of New Guinea and reached Cape Keer Weer, in 13 S latitude on the east side of the Gulf of Carpentaria -her captain thinking, however, that he was still on the west coast of New Guinea.

For a number of years the want of suitable vessels which could be spared from the needs of the east India settlements, and the hostilities in which they were constantly involved with their European rivals in the spice trade, coupled with thew necessity of consolidating their power in the Eastern Archipelago, prevented the Colonial authorities from engaging in distant adventures. The first Dutch discoveries on the west coast of Australia were not the result of design, but were accidental -or, at least, unpremeditated. When the Hollanders first made their way to the east Indies they naturally followed the old routes taken by their Portuguese predecessors and rivals. After rounding the Cape of Good Hope, they shaped their course, either inside or outside of Madagascar, and thence made their way as best they could -either north to India or east to Java. This rout had many disadvantages. Numerous rocks and islands, the positions of which were imperfectly known, lay in the track, and were a constant source of danger. The south-east Trade Winds drove the ships to the northward, and, as they got into the tropics, they met with light, variable, and baffling winds, which delayed them for long weeks, so that it was no uncommon thing for the outward voyage to last 13 months. Nor was the loss of time, and consequent damage to cargo the only evil. Scurvy -the scourge of all early voyages- produced by the long and exclusive use of salt diet, attacked the crews. Many died, and the survivors arrived at their destination broken down by sickness, and often short of provisions and water.

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Bad as the Madagascar route was, the Dutch, for more than 15 years, were unable to find a better. At last, however, in December, 1611, commander Hendrik Brouwer, who had sailed with two ships from Holland to the east, wrote to the Council of Seventeen reporting his arrival at Java. After leaving the Cape, he had run due east in about 36 S latitude for some 3000 miles. He had kept a strong westerly wind for 28 days, and had reached Batavia after a passage of less than seven months, having lost only two men from sickness. This was unprecedented; and he strongly advised that all outward bound ships should be ordered to take the south route, by which they might make sure of short passages -seeing that if they failed to get west winds in 36 S, they would be certain to do so if they ran to 40 or 44 S. Although the long distance run to the south seemed a disadvantage, it was largely compensated for by the gain of running down the easting in a high latitude. It was open sea all the way in this Great Southern Ocean, with none of the rocks and dangers which beset the northern route and the coolness of the weather was of great importance to the health of the crews.

In consequence of Brouwers report, seconded by the recommendation of Governor-General Cohen, the Directors ordered their outbound ships to take the new route. Rewards were offered for quick passages -150 Guilders for a passage under 9 months, 600 Guilders if they arrived within seven months. The superiority of the new route was soon apparent. Of three ships sailing at the same time from Holland in 1614, the Hardt took Brouwers route and reached Batavia in six months, while the two others by the Madagascar passage were 16 and 18 months in making the voyage. It was in running far east under the new sailing directions that in 1616 the ship Eendragt (Concord) first sighted the south land (the west coast of Australia) in 26 S latitude at Shark Bay; her captain Dirk Hartog landing on an island which still bears his name and putting up an inscribed metal plate, which remained there up to the early part of the present century. The voyage was not without danger, as an English ship, the Tryal, found to her cost; for, following the new Dutch route in 1621 she ran onto the Trial rocks in 20 S latitude and was totally wrecked, only a few of her crew succeeding in reaching Batavia in the boats.

From Hartog's ship, the new discovery received the name of Eendragt Land and in the next four or five years the captains of other ships on the same voyage sighted the west coast, amongst them Edel and Houtman, who in 1619 made the South Land in 32.5 S latitude -north of the present site of Perth- and sailed along it some hundreds of miles, giving it the name of Edel Land, and also naming Houtmans Abrolhos.

Instructions were issued by the directors in 1620 and 1621 that outward bound ships leaving the Cape should keep an east course between 30 and 40 S latitude for 4000 miles, or until they should sight the 'New South Land of the Eendragt'. With our modern notions these instructions appear extraordinary, but in the then existing state of navigation they were practical and well judged. The appliances at the command of ships captains in those days were very imperfect. Without the sextant or the chronometer there was the greatest difficulty in determining the ships position. It is true that they could find the latitude by the cross-staff with reasonable accuracy, but they had no means of finding the longitude except by the rude process of dead reckoning by the log. They had no reliable charts, and had to depend very largely on their own personal experience of former voyages or on the advice of pilots who had sailed the seas before. It was therefor no uncommon thing at the end of a long voyage for the captain to find himself some hundreds of miles out of his reckoning -sometimes even as much as 400 or 600 miles. Thus Brouwer, in the voyage above mentioned- made Sumatra, when according to his estimated position on the chart he was still 320 miles to the westward of the island. The object of the new instructions was, therefore, to enable the ships to ascertain their position after the long run to the east. When they made the South Land they ran north along the coast until they reached the known point of Eendragt Land in 25 or 26 S latitude. From this they took a new departure, and by steering an NNW course they could make pretty sure of striking the south coast of Java. The new plan lead to several ships sighting various parts of the west coast of Australia in the course of the next 6 or 7 years. Amongst others, the dispatch Leeuwin (Lioness), in 1622 doubled the Cape to which she gave her name. Even by the new route the voyage to the Indies was often very protracted, the Leeuwin for instance, taking 13 months to reach Batavia. There was also the danger of overshooting the mark, as Pieter Nuyts found (1627) when in the Gulde Zeepart (Golden Seahorse) he found himself at the islands of St. Peter and St. Francis at the head of the Great Australian Bight, and had to coast back some hundreds of miles until he could round Cape Leeuwin.

The new discoveries quickly attracted quickly the attention and interest not only of the Colonial Government but of the Home Directors, and were a frequent subject of correspondence between the Council of Seventeen and their Governors-General. Cohen respecting the discovery of a great land situate to the south of Java reported by the ship Eendragt, Commanders Houtman, Edel, and others, recommending that ships should be sent to examine it and report on its inhabitants and resources, and the opening it might offer for profitable trade; and also to try to find a passage eastward into the Great South Sea. Accordingly in the next few years several attempts at systematic exploration were made, but with little success. The only result was the discovery by the ships Pera and Arnhem, in 1623, of a portion of the north coast of Australia (now part of the Northern Territory of South Australia), which was named Arnhem Land and the naming of the Golf of Carpenteria, after the Governor-General Carpentier.

One further addition to the knowledge of these coasts was made by DeVitt, whose ship, the Vianen, leaving the East Indies in January 1628, in the north-west monsoon, was driven onto the north west coast of Australia, about the Kimberly district, and who named the country DeVitt Land. The total result of these various discoveries and explorations was that the coast of Australia, from Cape York on the North to the center of the Great Australian Bight on the south, had been traced more or less continuously by Dutch ships in the twelve years between 1616 and 1628. This coast was now called by the Dutch "The Known South Land" to differentiate it from those unexplored and supposititious regions for which, with practical sense they retained the old appellation of "The unknown South Land." Down to very recent times, the names of these early Dutch discoveries were retained on the maps of Western Australia. Half a century ago, when across the center of Australia was written the simple word "Unexplored," almost the only names appearing on the western coast were those given two hundred years before by the captains of the ships of the Dutch East India Company in the early years of the 17th C. Beginning with Nuyts Land in the great Australian Bight, and going north, we had Leeuwin Land, Edel Land, Eendragt Land, DeVitt Land, and Arnhem land. A few names still remain as evidence of the Dutch discoveries -Cape Leeuwin, Houtmans Abrolhos, Dirk Hartog's Island, and the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Such was the state of Dutch knowledge of Australia when Antony van Diemen became Governor-General of the Dutch Indies, in the year 1636. Van Diemen was one of the most notable of the many notable men who served the east India Company in the early years of its power. Being involved in debt, he had gone to the Indies, either to escape his creditors or to retrieve his fortunes. He showed so much capacity that he was appointed Secretary to Governor-General Coen. From this time his rise was rapid. In 1626 he became one of the Councillors of the Indies, and, after important services, he was appointed Governor-General, in 1636.

He came to his government at a time when the Dutch power had been so firmly consolidated by Coen, Carpentier, Brouwer, and others of his predecessors in office, that the Dutch were undisputed masters of the Eastern Archipelago, and had a virtual monopoly of the trade. Free from the difficulties with the native powers, and foreign rivals, which had embarrassed his predecessors, he had the leisure and the means to prosecute new enterprises. His zeal for discoveries which might bring increased wealth and power to his company was unbounded, and as shown not only by his frequent dispatches on the subject top the Council of Seventeen in Holland, but by the expeditions, which he planned and sent out during the term of his nine years government.

It will be observed that the first attempts at exploration from the Dutch East India Settlements were directed to the regions east of the Banda Sea, and had for their chief object the exploration of New Guinea, and especially the determination of the question whether New Guinea and the Known South Land formed one continent, or whether there was a strait between them by which access could be gained to the Great South Sea. It was to the solution of this problem that Van Diemen first applied himself in the very year in which he received his appointment as Governor-General, ignorant of the fact that the Spaniard Torres had already solved the problem by sailing through the strait that now bears his name, in the year 1606.
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In the year 1636 Van Diemen dispatched two ships from Banda under the command of Captain Gerrit Thomasz Pool, with instructions to proceed along the south coast of New Guinea. If, contrary to all expectation, a strait was found between New Guinea and the South Land, Pool was to sail through it and trace, if possible, the east coast of the Known South Land, circumnavigating it and returning home along Nuyts Land and Eendragt Land. If, however, as seemed most probable, New Guinea was joined to the Known South Land, he was to sail along the northern and western coast of Australia as far south as Houtmans Abrolhos, searching all the way for any possible passage to the Pacific. More particularly was he to search the more northerly parts, as it was presumed that a strait was more likely to be found in that quarter than further south, where the South Land was presumably much wider. If Pool with some of his crew had not been murdered by the savages of New Guinea, it is possible that he might have assailed through the strait already traversed by Torres, and have anticipated Captain Cook in the discovery of New South Wales. As it happened, however, the ships returned without having discovered anything of importance. In the same year Van Diemen planned the expedition to search for the supposed "golden island", east of Japan, which three years later was undertaken by Quast and Tasman, with the result we have already seen.

2. - The Planning of the Great Discovery Voyage

Governor Van Diemen's heart was now set on a complete exploration of the Unknown South Land, in which he hoped to discover a new Peru, rich in silver and gold, or at the least fertile countries inhabited by civilised people, in which might be found new and as yet undreamed of commodities to bring fresh wealth into the already overflowing coffers of the East India Company. For some years domestic troubles and the want of suitable ships delayed the execution of his plans; but in the year 1641 he writes to the Council of seventeen: -"We are very desirous to make discovery of the South Land. The fly-ship Zeehaen was intended for this service, but through the strange delay of the ships from Persia and Suratte we were compelled to employ this same Zeehaen for the last voyage to Taiwan and Japan. Moreover, we have kept here in the harbour idle, as much to his vexation as to our own, the renowned pilot Frans Visscher, whom we intend to employ for the discovery of the South Land; however, this shall, as we hope, be effected once for all".

This same Frans Jacobszoon, alias Visscher, took an important part as the adviser of the Governor-General Van Diemen in his plans for the projected voyage of discovery. Visscher was a native of Flushin, and had been for many years in the service of the company. He had repeatedly made the outward and homeward voyages. In 1623, as mate of the ship Hope, he had sailed around the world in the celebrated Nassau fleet, under the command of L'Hermite and Schapenham. He had traded in the east for many years, chiefly in the Japan trade, and was thoroughly acquainted with the coast of Tonquin, Chine and Formosa. In those days, when navigation had not been reduced to a science, and charts were either wanting or not to be depended on, the Dutch captains in the uncharted seas had to place their chief reliance for safe and prosperous voyages on the personal experience of those officers and seamen who in former voyages had gained a knowledge of the coasts and rocks, the currents, and the winds of the seas they were traversing. these pilots, for the most part, were jealous of their knowledge, and indisposed to make it public, notwithstanding the repeated complaints and injunctions of the company. Amongst these pilots, Visscher, from his long and varied experience, and from his skill and capacity, was one of the most renowned. His knowledge and experience were freely placed at the disposal of the company, as is often made matter of honourable mention in the despatches of the Governor-General. He had made charts of the coasts and islands of the China Seas, of Formosa, the Piscadores, and Japan, and is continually referred to as one of the best chart-makers of his time. it was this man that van Diemen consulted on the projected expedition, and, as we have seen, for this purpose he detained him-very much to Visschers chagrin in these stirring times-for nine months in idleness in Batavia, for the benefit of his advice.

In January, 1642, Visscher wrote a report to the Governor-General on the proposed discovery of the Unknown South Land. The report is a masterly document, and gives us a high idea not only of Visschers practical ability and knowledge as a seaman, but also of his sagacity and sound judgment. The old pilot wastes no words on fanciful speculations about the unknown South Land. He goes straight to the point, states the conditions necessary for success, discusses possible difficulties, and, in short and concise terms, lays down a clearly defined and carefully thought out scheme-or rather choice of schemes-for exploring both the Unknown and Known South Lands, and , indeed, for obtaining a knowledge of the whole southern world.

The report begins with a recommendation that the expedition should leave Batavia in August, when they would have the most favourable winds, and have the whole of the summer before them, with long days and good weather. From Batavia the ships should first proceed to Mauritius, then a Dutch possession. As the expedition was intended to go to the east, this, at first sight, seems a strange recommendation. But there were good grounds for the advice. Visscher, as we shall see, had certain reasons for wishing to make the point of departure as far to the west as possible. Mauritius, moreover, was easily reached with the south-east trades, and when there the ships would have run down nearly a thousand miles of their southing, and would have a comparatively short distance to run to the south before reaching the region of the westerly winds, on which they must depend for success. Moreover, at Mauritius, and this is the only reason explicitly stated in the report, they could conveniently take in wood, water, and other supplies necessary for the voyage.

Leaving Mauritius early in October, the ships were to get away south as quickly as possible to 51 or 54 south latitude. or until they fell in with land. From this point they should run due east upon the same latitude to the longitude of the east end of New Guinea, and then steer a course north by west until they got new Guinea on board; or else they might run further to the east to the supposed longitude of the Solomon Islands- or perhaps 500 or 700 miles beyond-then steer north-explore those islands-where, according to all accounts, they would find many things worth their trouble-and return by the north coast of New Guinea to Banda or Amboyna.

But Visscher had an alternative scheme, or rather a combination of two schemes, by which a much more complete exploration could be made. If an exploring expedition was fitted out in Holland, the ships might make the Cape of Good Hope, and thence sail south to latitude 54 S., or make Rio de Janeiro, and begin from the east side of Staaten Land, near Cape Horn; in either case running east to the longitude of the Solomon islands, and making the homeward voyage as before. Such a voyage would give a knowledge of the whole Southern Ocean from Cape Horn to the Solomon Islands. Of course if land was met with the plans would be modified, but Visscher apparently had not much faith in the common belief in a huge southern continent, at least in the Atlantic and Indian oceans. About the South Pacific he was more doubtful. Here the difficulty of exploration would be greater.

The strong westerly winds prevailing in the latitude of Cape Horn would make it impossible for any ship to make the voyage to the west in a high latitude; but if the Dutch had a settlement in Chile, the expedition might start from there and run up into the tropics with the south-east trades to latitudes 12* or 15 S., crossing the Pacific in that latitude until it made the Solomons. If they could only be sure of getting refreshment at the Solomon Islands this would be an excellent plan, for they could then sail south from the Solomons, and getting into westerly winds run back east to the Strait of Le Maire and Cape Horn.

By the accomplishment of these two voyages, says Visscher, "You will be able to explore the southern portion of the world round about the whole globe, and find out what is there; whether it be land or sea or icebergs-whatever God has ordained to be there". The old pilots views as to the South Land, and the best means to search for it, show that he was in advance of his time, and free from many of the traditional prepossessions then common amongst navigators and geographers. If the Council of Seventeen could only have been induced to enter into Visscher's plans, the riddle of the South Land might have been solved in the 17th C., and the discoveries of Captain Cook anticipated by more than one hundred and twenty years.

These large schemes were beyond the province of the East India Government, but the plan Visscher had sketched for the expedition from Batavia was adopted in its entirety. Van Diemen in his despatches describes the voyage as having been projected on the advice of Visscher. The resolution of the Governor-General and Council decreeing the expedition is dated 1st August, 1642. It begins by stating the great desire of both the colonial and home governments for the exploration of southern and eastern lands, with the hope of opening up important areas for trade, or at least finding a more convenient way to the rich countries already known in South America. The Governor then states that he has consulted divers persons of approved judgement in such matters, and especially the renowned and most experienced pilot Frans Jacobsz Visscher, as to the explorations and the bets way to accomplish them, and in accordance with their written opinions has decided to dispatch for the discovery of these apparently rich countries two ships, the Heemskerck , with a crew of sixty men, and the fly-ship Zeehan ( Cormorant 0, with a crew of fifty. The expedition to be under the command of the Hon. Abel Tasman, who is very eager to make the exploration; with him are to be associated the said Pilot-Major Visscher and other capable officers.

The ships were ready for sea. The Heemskerck had for skipper Ide Tjerxszoon, the Zeehan Gerrit Janszoon. Tasman as commander and Visscher as pilot-major were on board the Heemskerck, Gilsemans the merchant or super-cargo on the Zeehan. In all Dutch discovery and trading expeditions the merchant or supercargo was an important personage. He had the direction of the commercial part-which in the Company's voyages was the chief part of the undertaking-and consequently had a large voice in the direction of the expedition. Gilsemans is spoken of as having a competent knowledge of navigation and as being also a skilful draftsman, and it doubtless to his capable pencil that we owe the vigorous sketches which illustrate the original journal of the voyage.

The instructions to Tasman were printed by Swart in 1859, and are entitled "Instructions for the Captain-Commander Abel Janszoon Tasman, the Pilot-Major Franchoys Jacobsz Visscher, and the Council on the ship Heemskerck and fly-boat the Zeehaen, destined for the exploration of the Unknown and Discovered South Land, the South-Eastern Coast of New-Guinea, with the Islands lying round about". They begin with an elaborate exordium recounting the priceless riches, profitable commerce, useful traffic, excellent dominion, great might and power which the kings of Castile and Portugal had brought to their crowns by the discovery of America by Columbus and of the Cape route to the Indies by Vasco de Gama; likewise what uncounted blind heathen had thus come to the wholesome light of the Christian religion. Yet hitherto no serious attempt had been made by any Christian king, prince, or republic to explore the still unknown part of the globe situated in the south, which might be supposed to be as great as either the old or the new world, and might with good reason be expected to contain many excellent and fruitful countries, and also lands as rich in mines or precious metals as the gold and silver provinces of Peru, Chile or Sofala. No European colony was so suitable for the starting-point of such an expedition as the town of Batavia, situated in the centre of the known and unknown East India; therefore the Governor and Council of India had resolved to take the discovery in hand, and to dispatch for that service the ships Heemskerck and Zeehan.

The instructions then prescribe the course which the vessels are to take, following exactly the recommendations of Visschers report, except that, if the ships council for any sufficient reason thought it best, they might vary the route by making the east end of the known South Land, or the islands of St.Peter and St. Francis on the Great Australian Bight, and then sailing due north along the coast, (which it was presumed would turn here to the north) and try to discover a passage between it and new Guinea. However, this was not recommended; the course advised being to keep on south latitude 48 to 54 until 400 to 800 miles east of the supposed longitude of the Solomon Islands, so as to be assured there was a way through from the Indies to the South Pacific which would give a short route to Chile.

Minute directions are given for the survey and description of lands discovered; observations of winds, currents, and weather; precautions to be taken in navigation; discipline and rations of the crews; care in conciliating the natives and avoiding any injury to them; precautions to be observed against possible treachery when landing from boats; and injunctions to obtain information as to the resources of the countries visited, and the possibilities of trade with them.

It must be remembered that this, like other Dutch expeditions, was essentially commercial. It was no scientific or adventurous thirst for discovery that prompted these old Dutchmen, but plain practical business and the hope of profit for the Company. The merchant to whom was entrusted the management of the commercial venture had a large voice in the direction of the expedition. Consequently the instructions are specially precise in their injunctions to enter in the journal full particulars of the productions of the countries, what sort of goods the people had for trade, and what they would take in exchange. For this purpose the ships were laden with a great variety of articles of merchandise. Gold and silver were specially to be sought for, but , says the Governor-General with cynical candour, "Keep them ignorant of the value of the same, appear as if you were not greedy for them; and if gold or silver is offered in any barter, you must feign that you do not value those metals, showing them copper, zinc, or lead, as if those minerals were of more value with us."

Tasman was to hoist his flag on the Heemskerck as commander of the expedition, and was to preside in the ships council, consisting of skippers of the two ships, Pilot-Major Visscher, the chief mates, and the two merchants. The commander had a deliberative and a casting vote. In the administration of justice the boatswains were also to be summoned and to have votes. But in all matters which concerned navigation, such as courses to be steered and the discovery of lands, the Pilot-Major was to have two votes, and his advice to be held in proper respect, seeing that the voyage had been projected on his advice and information. In these matters too, the second mates were to have votes.

In case of Tasmans death the skipper of the Heemskerk, Ide Tjerexszoon, was to succeed to the command. The instructions conclude:- "We command you to the blessing of the Almighty, whom we pray to endue you with manly courage for the accomplishment of the proposed discoveries, and to bring you back in safety, to the increase of His glory, the reputation of the fatherland, the service of the company, and your own immortal honour". They are dated Fort Batavia, 13th August, 1642, and signed by the Governor-General and his Council-Van der Lyn, Maetzuycker, Schouten, Sweers, Witsen, and Boreel.

3. The Voyage of 1642.

The next day (14th August) the ships sailed from Batavia, and on this day Tasmans journal begins as follows:- "Journal or description by me, Abel Jansz Tasman, of a voyage made from the Town of Batavia, in the East Indies, for the discovery of the Unknown Southland, in the year Anno 1642, the 14th August. May it please Almighty God to grant His blessing thereto! Amen".

Sailing through the Sunda straight, the ships carried the south-east trades with them to Mauritius, where they arrived 5th September, after an exceptionally quick passage of 22 days. An entry in Tasman's journal shows us how hopelessly abroad the best sailors in those days were in regard to longitude. He says, "By our reckoning we were still 200 miles to the east of Mauritius when we saw it". And he mentions the arrival at the same time of another ship, the Arent, outward bound, which had made the island of Rodrigues in the belief that it was Mauritius, because it lay in nearly the same latitude, though 300 miles to the eastward.

They had other difficulties to contend with. A letter from Van der Stael, the Dutch commandant at Mauritius, to the Governor-General at Batavia, states that the ships arrived in very bad condition, and wanting almost everything. The Zeehan was partly rotten, and in need of extensive repairs. Both ships were leaky, their rigging was old and weak, their yards and other spars frequently giving way. To refit the ships, caulk the seams throughout, strengthen the rigging, cut and ship spare spars, took the crews nearly a month. Meantime they took in supplies of water, firewood, and other stores; and added to their stock of provisions by shooting wild hogs, wild goats, and other game abounding in the woods. Van der Stel gave to Tasman journals and maps relating to the Solomon Islands, and vocabularies of the languages of those islands and of New Guinea, The ships were ready for sea on 4th October, but through contrary winds, they could not get out of the harbour of Fort Fredrik Hendrik until the 8th.

Taking a departure from the south end of Mauritius, Tasman stood to the southward, getting variable winds to 31 or 32 S, when he came into the westerly winds. Passing far to the west of St. Pauls and Amsterdam, and between those islands and Kerguelen, he came, in 43 S, on floating seaweed and other indications of land. The ships council was called together, and it was resolved to keep a man constantly on the look-out at the masthead, and to offer as a reward to whoever should first see land three reals of eight and a mug of arrack. On 29th October, three weeks out, he made 46 S latitude, and, meeting with strong gales and fogs, thought it too dangerous to keep a southerly course for fear of falling in with land. The course was therefore changed to nearly east. On 6th November, four weeks out, he reached his highest latitude, 49 4' S, seeing many indications of land, which kept him anxious.

The Pilot-Major now delivered to Tasman an elaborate paper, in which he carefully discussed the future course of the voyage. He proposed that they should fall off to 44 S. latitude until they had passed the 150th meridian, when he judged that if they had not made the Southern Continent they would be in open sea. Then they should fall off to 40 S. , and sail east to 220 longitude ( about 160 W. according to our reckoning ), which he judged would bring them well to the eastward of the Solomons, and enable them to make these islands with the south-east trades - as indeed it would, seeing that this would be about 15 east of the true position of the Solomons.

This resolution was communicated to the Zeehaen by enclosing the paper in a wooden case, and floating it astern by a long-line for the Zeehaen to pick up. The councils of both ships having given their approval, the course was altered accordingly, and on 18th November they passed the longitude of Nuyts Land ( Great Australian Bight ), the furthest known extension of the discovered South Land. Here they had heavy westerly gales, and gradually fell off to lat. 42 25', when on the 24th November, they sighted their first land, which they called Antony van Diemen's Land, after the Governor-General. This landfall was somewhere to the north of Point Hibbs, on the West Coast of Tasmania, probably near the entrance of Macquarie Harbour- Mounts Heemskerck and Zeehan being noticeable objects to the north-east. After standing off for the night, the ships next day made the land again, approaching within one Dutch mile ( four English miles ) of Point Hibbs. By carefully comparing reckonings the longitude was fixed at 163 50'S, and a new departure taken. The wind now came easterly with thick weather, so that they could not see the land. Rounding South West Cape they got the wind from the north, and sailed along the south coast. Tasman named the outlying islands and some peaks on the broken coast, which he mistook for islands, after members of the council of India - Wit, Maatsuyker, Sweers, and Boreel. Passing between Pedra Branca and the main, and rounding the Friars ( which he called Boreel Islands ), south of Bruni, Tasman stood up for Adventure Bay, but was caught in a violent north - west gale , which drove the ships out to sea. From this incident the bay received its well known name of Storm Bay.

Rounding Tasman's Island on the 1st December, he came to an anchor off what is now known as Blackman's Bay, but, which Tasman called Fredrik Hendrik Bay, in honour of the Stadtholder of the United Provinces. His anchorage was off Green Island, near Cape Frederik Henry on Forestier's Peninsula. Next day Pilot - Major Visscher was sent in the Zeehaen boat through the Narrows to explore Frederik Hendrik ( or Blackman's ) Bay. On the 3rd, Tasman with two boats made for a little bay, now known as Prince of Wales Bay, but the wind was so stiff from the south - east that the Zeehan's launch with Visscher and Gilsemans on board had to run back to the ship. The Heemskerck's longboat with Tasman on board made the bay, but the surf was too high to allow of landing. The carpenter therefore swam through the surf, and planting the Prince's flag on shore, took formal possession of the newly discovered country.

On the 4th December Tasman weighed anchor, intending to sail northwards along the coast and take in water; the wind, however, was unfavourable, blowing from the north - west, and being unable to hold the land aboard, the ship's council resolved to stand away to the east. After naming Maria Island, Schouten Island, and Van der Lyn Island ( Freycinet Peninsula ), he took his departure from "a high round mountain" - probably St. Patrick's head, or St. Paul's dome. Steering due east from the coast of Antony Van Diemen's Land, after nine days he sighted land again ( 13th December ). This was the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand, to the south of Cook's strait.

In an interesting paper by Dr. T. M. Hocken, of Dunedin, on Tasman's discoveries in New Zealand, it is stated that "the great high land" that Tasman first saw is situated between Hokitika and Okarito. Further north the low point described in the journal is Cook's Cape Foulwind, with its outlying rocks, the Steeples, near Westport. North of this the Karamea Bight, and the "furthermost point, which stood out so boldly that we had no doubt that it was the extreme point", is Cook's Cape Farewell.

Coasting north - eastwards he made a bay on the north coast of the South Island, where he anchored. Here the Maori's in their war canoes attacked one of the Zeehan's boats, killed three of the crew, and mortally wounded a fourth man. Tasman gave this bay the name of Moordenaars ( or massacre ) Bay. He says " This is the second land we have discovered; we have given it the name of the Staaten Land in honour of Their Mighty Highnesses the States General, and also because it may be that this land is joined to Staaten Land ( near Cape Horn), but this is uncertain. It appears to be a very fine country. Believing that this is the main continent of the Unknown Southland, we have given this strait the name of Abel Tasman's Passage, as he has been the first to sail through it". Massacre Bay is near the western entrance of Cook's Strait; it is now called Golden Bay, and the scene of the tragedy, according to Dr. Hocken, lies close to Parapara. Although Tasman noted a south - east current and suspected that there must be a passage, the weather was so bad that he did not stay to look for it; if he had done so he would have sailed through Cook's Strait and corrected his idea that he had found the great Southern Continent. However, he sailed north along the west coast of the North Island and sighted the Three Kings Islands, on which they would have landed to get fresh water , but were deterred by seeing thirty or forty men of uncommon stature who showed themselves in a threatening attitude. He did not land in New Zealand, partly on account of bad weather and partly owing to the hostile attitude of the Maoris. After rounding the north of New Zealand he steered north-east after consultation with the ships council, and found a great swell from the south-east, which must have made him doubt the existence of the Great Southern Continent. It did indeed assure him that here was a clear passage to Batavia to Chile. Still holding a north-east course, on 21st January he came to several islands, to which he gave the names of Amsterdam, Middelburg, and Rotterdam, now known as Tongataboo, Eooa, and Annamooka, part of the Tonga or Friendly Group.

He was very hospitably received by the natives, and after a few days' stay he weighed anchor ( 1st February ) and after discovering Willems' Shoals, south-east of Fiji, by the advice of Visscher and the council he stood north by west to 5 or 6 S. latitude, and then west for New Guinea. He sailed along the north coast of New Guinea, and arrived at Batavia on 15th June 1643, after an absence of ten months, during which he had lost ten men by sickness, besides the four men killed by the Maoris. His journal concludes thus: "God be praised and thanked for a safe voyage! Amen".

4 - The Voyage of 1644.

Tasman had not, as Van Diemen had hoped, discovered any rich gold or silver mines, or indeed any rich trade for the Company, but he had circumnavigated New Holland, or, as he called it on the chart, "Compagnies Nieuw Nederlandt", and had found a clear way to Chile, which opened up a good prospect for trade, or at least for great spoil to be come at from the Spanish settlements in South America. From this last Governor-General Van Diemen hoped much. On 4th January, 1644, he wrote to the Home Directory that he contemplated fitting out a fleet in September to open up a Chile trade and to plunder the Spaniards in Peru. He also intended to send two or three ships to make an examination of the newly discovered South Land, which Tasman had found not possible. For he hoped that such great countries must contain much that would be profitable for the Company, and especially gold and silver mines, as in Peru, Chile, and Japan. But, in the meantime, it would much facilitate the attempts on Chile and Peru if a shorter passage could be found between New Guinea and the Known South Land.

This, the Governor-General announced, was to be immediately undertaken by two ships and a smaller vessel under the same commanders as before, viz.-Commander Tasman and Pilot-Major Frans Visscher; Gilsemans was again to be merchant or supercargo.

On the 13th January, 1644, by resolution of the Governor-general in Council, the ships Limmen and Zeemeeuw ( Sea Gull ), with the little tender Braq ( Setter ) carrying only 14 men, were commissioned for the work. They carried a compliment of 111 hands, and were provisioned for a eight months. On 29th January the instructions for the voyage were drawn up and signed. They were printed in England by Mr. Major in 1859. They contain a most interesting and valuable summary of former Dutch voyages in the South land. The vessels were to coast along the south and west coasts of New Guinea to the furthest discovery in 17 S. latitude ( ie. in the Gulf of Carpentaria ) and endeavour to find a strait or passage into the South sea. If a strait was found, which might be known by the south-east swell through it, they were to sail along it and thence as far to the south-east as the new Van Diemens Land. From thence they were to make the islands of St. Peter and St. Francis, and run along the coast of the Known South Land to De Wit Land, in 22 S. latitude, when the known South Land would be circumnavigated and found to be the largest island in the globe. But if, as was to be presumed, New Guinea was joined to the South Land, forming one continent, then they were to run along the coast to 28 S. to the land of Eendragt and Houtman's Abrolhos, and thence to return to Batavia.

The ships sailed from Batavia the next day, ( the 30th December, 1644). The journals of the voyage are lost, and we have only the briefest notices of the expedition. But Tasmans chart shows the route of the ships. For some reason or other, probably on account of the wind, Tasman and Visscher did not follow the instructions exactly. Instead of sailing first to New Guinea they made a strait course to the Land of Eendragt. from there Tasman coasted northwards, and carefully charted, with soundings, the west and north coasts of Australia, including the Gulf of Carpentaria. He actually got into the mouth of Torres Strait, but did not discover the passage. Probably he was deterred from further examination by the multitude of islands and reefs that block the way, and was, moreover, ignorant of the fact that the Spaniard Torres had in 1606 sailed through the strait from the east. Failing to find the strait he returned along the coast of New Guinea to Batavia, where he arrived in August, 1644.

Van Diemen in his dispatch to the Home Directory, the Council of Seventeen, ( 23rd December, 1644 ) , reports the result of the voyage, and expresses his disappointment and discontent that the expedition had not discovered a strait between New Guinea and the Known South Land, but only a great bay or Gulf, and also that they had done nothing but sail along the coasts, and had gained no knowledge of the country and its productions, alleging as a reason that they were not strong enough to venture to land in face of the savages. This was very disappointing, since discoveries were of little use unless the country was explored at the same time. "For it is certain that as long as we merely run along the coasts and shores we shall very slowly open up anything profitable, it being well known to everybody that the coast people are ordinarily poor, miserable, and evil disposed; therefore, we must go inland". ( Letter : 29 Nov.)

Yet, he says, Tasman in his two voyages had circumnavigated the hitherto Unknown South Land, which was calculated to have an extent of 8000 miles of coast; and it was very improbable that in so great a country, with such a variety of climates, there should not be found something of great importance and profit for the company. There were also the great northern lands of America, which had been made accessible by the new discoveries, and every opportunity would be taken to explore them from time to time by vigilant and courageous persons; "for", says Van Diemen, "the discovery of new countries is not work for everyone". "God grant", he concludes, "that in either one or the other ( ie., in the North America or the South Land ) may be found a rich silver or gold mine, to the satisfaction of those engaged in the venture, and to the honour of the finders".

It is plain that Van Diemen was dissatisfied with Tasman. He had looked for immediate results in the extension of trade, or at least for the finding of the New Guinea strait, and, disappointed in this, he could not appreciate the importance of the discoveries from a geographical standpoint.

Tasmans services were recognised somewhat grudgingly. By resolution of the Governor-General and Council ( 4th October, 1644 ) his salary was raised to 100 florins per month, and the reasons are stated in measured language;- "In which two voyage ( of 1642 and 1644 ), he has given us reasonable contentment in respect to his services and the duties he has accomplished. It is therefore on account of this, at his request, and in consideration of his ability, also by reason of his having been again about six years in the country; and, moreover, that we find in him the spirit to render further good service to the General Council on like occasions in searching for rich countries for profitable trade".