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Dutch Exploration

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What is not common knowledge is that English were not the first Europeans in Australia. During the 15th and 16th centuries, exploration and expansion was a major activity of the Europeans. Navigators explored major coastlines of Africa, India, the Dutch East Indies, and New Guinea. The Spanish were seeking more lands after the discovery of South America and Ferdinand Magellan was the first to enter the Pacific. The Portuguese first sighted New Guinea while Peru discovered the Solomon Islands. It was only a matter of time before the fabled dream of that great southern continent, Terra Australis, was to be sighted and discovered.

Dutch ships had chartered Australian waters as early as 1605. The first Dutch ship to make landfall was the Duyfken. The Duyfken was sailing around the southern side of New Guinea and the western side of Torres Strait in search of gold when it turned south and sailed along the Cape York Peninsula. The Duyfken named the cape, Keer-Weer.

The next Dutch ship to make landfall in 1616, was the Eendracht which discovered a group of islands off the coast of Western Australia, the largest island is still named after the captain of the Eendracht, Dirk Hartog. There is no written record of the visit to these islands but upon the departure of the Eendracht, Dirk Hartog fixed a pewter plate to post as a record of the visit. A nearby part of the Western Australia coastline is known as Eendrachtsland. Australia was now referred to as New Holland.

Two years later the Zeewulf landed on the coast north of Eendrachtsland. The captain of the Zeewulf recommended that ships, travelling to Java, should sail eastward to this new land before turning North. However, as ships rarely found the same piece of coastline, an outline of the coast began to appear.

The most southwestern part of the Australian continent was discovered in 1622 with the ship, Leeuwin.

Jan Carstenz was the first captain sent to explore this great southern continent in earnest. The two ships he was in charge of were the Pera and the Arnhem. The crew of the Arnhem mutinied against Carstenz, leaving him and the Pera, exploring what is today known as Arnhemland.

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Consequent landfalls and chartering were achieved by the Dutch ships, Gulden Zeepaert, Vyanen, and the Batavia. The wreck and mutiny of the Batavia is widely known. The Batavia was shipwrecked on a reef off the Western Australian coast on June 4th 1629. The drunken crew made it to nearby islands which, however, did not provide much fresh water. Palsaert took a small boat to search for fresh water but headed for Batavia where he was given a large ship to rescue the crew. On his return he was informed of the horrific mutiny which had taken place. The mutineers were either hung on the island or marooned on the coast in the hope they would gain some knowledge of the area.

The last discovery by Dutch sailors (apart from Abel Tasman) was made in 1636.

Abel Janszoon Tasman was sent by van Diemen to explore the Great Southern land. Their first sighting of land was off the west coast of Tasmania. The Island of Tasmania was discovered in 1642 and was named Van Diemen's Land. It was on this voyage that Tasman discovered and explored the coast of New Zealand. On his second voyage in 1644, Tasman sailed the length of Cape York in the North.

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