Dutch Mariners put Australia on the Map

This is the story of how maritime explorers put Australia on the world map – a process that started in the early 1600s and took many remarkable explorers over 200 years to complete.  Australia is the world’s largest island continent – so it is ironic that it was the last continent to appear on the map of the world. While all other continents were known to Europeans over 400 years ago, the only people who knew of Australia’s existence were its inhabitants, the Aborigines, who had lived there for at least 40,000 years.

Cape York Peninsula - 1606

Duyfken sails into Australian history
It was during a search for new commercial opportunities in 1606 that a ship owned by the Dutch East India Company made the first recorded European contact with Australia. Captain Willem Janszoon sailed the Duyfken east of Indonesia to investigate rumours that New Guinea had large deposits of gold. 
 

Brouwer Route - 1611

West Coast on new route to spice islands
Dutch captain Hendrik Brouwer can be credited with bringing the first European ships into close contact with the coast of Western Australia when in 1611 he discovered a quicker trade route to Indonesia’s spice islands.
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Shark Bay to North West Cape: 1616

Hartog's accidental encounter with Western Australia
In 1616, Dirk Hartog and the crew of a Dutch East India Company vessel, the Eendracht, became the first Europeans to sight the coast of what we now know as Western Australia. The Eendracht had accidently reached Western Australia after being pushed further eastward than expected by strong winds in the roaring forties.

 

 

West and South Coasts: 1616 – 1628

Dutch map of Western Australia evolves
Just 17 years after the Brouwer route was established, mariners of the Dutch East India Company had mapped much of Western Australia’s coastline.
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Arnhem Land: 1623

Dutch interest awakened in the south land
The Dutch East India Company was keen to complete the significant gap between what was known of the west coast and the region that Janszoon had mapped aboard the Duyfken along the eastern shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1606.
 

Tasmania and North Coast: 1642 – 1644

The map of Australia takes shape
As the south land took shape on the world map, the Dutch East India Company became more interested in the commercial  opportunities it might provide.
 

The last Dutch map of Australia: 1644

Why the Netherlands didn’t colonise the south land
Although the Dutch East India Company mapped much of Australia’s coastline by 1644, several factors deterred them from colonising this new land. A succession of Dutch mariners had reported a lack of safe harbours, little fresh water, poor soil and many hazardous reefs along its coast.




 






Captain Willem Janszoon sailed the Duyfken east of Indonesia to investigate rumours that New Guinea had large deposits of gold. Janszoon sailed along New Guinea’s south coast to the country’s most southwestern point before heading south east.
When Janszoon and his crew next saw land, they entered history as the first known Europeans to sight Australia. They anchored at Pennefather River, about 150km south of Cape York, before becoming the first Europeans to walk on Australian soil. Janszoon went on to map over 300km of the Cape York Peninsula’s western coast – the very first section of Australian coastline to be charted.
But he never realised that the strange coast he’d stumbled upon was part of a continent unknown to Europeans. This was due to the fact that he had no evidence of the existence of the channel of water that separates New Guinea and Australia (we now call Torres Strait). Looking at the two unfinished coastlines on his map of New Guinea and the western side of Cape York Peninsula, he suggested the two land masses might be connected.
Ironically, in the same year as the Duyfken’s expedition, a Spanish ship negotiated the strait from the east. Records made by the ship’s captain, Luis Vaz de Torres, were largely unknown until they were translated by Scottish geographer Alexander Dalrymple in 1769.
Despite the best efforts of the Dutch, it would take another century and a half before the unknown south land would be identified as a separate continent by Captain James Cook.
Future explorers were to refer to Janzoon’s map and log. But the significance of the Duyfken’s first landing would eventually fade from human memory over the centuries. Fortunately, copies of the original chart were made in the 1670s. One of these became part of a collection of sea charts, sometimes referred to as the ‘secret atlas’ of the Dutch East India Company.
Sold to the Vienna Imperial Library in 1737, the collection remained in obscurity for nearly two centuries. It wasn’t until the chart was brought to light and published in 1930 that Australia was provided with significant evidence of its earliest European history.
Through their travels, the crew of the Duyfken also became the first Europeans to encounter Australian Aborigines. It was not to be an auspicious start to relations between the two peoples – a bloody conflict ensued with lives lost on both sides.

t was during a search for new commercial opportunities in 1606 that a ship owned by the Dutch East India Company made the first recorded European contact with Australia. 

It was during a search for new commercial opportunities in 1606 that a ship owned by the Dutch East India Company made the first recorded European contact with Australia.
Captain Willem Janszoon sailed the Duyfken east of Indonesia to investigate rumours that New Guinea had large deposits of gold. Janszoon sailed along New Guinea’s south coast to the country’s most southwestern point before heading south east.
When Janszoon and his crew next saw land, they entered history as the first known Europeans to sight Australia. They anchored at Pennefather River, about 150km south of Cape York, before becoming the first Europeans to walk on Australian soil. Janszoon went on to map over 300km of the Cape York Peninsula’s western coast – the very first section of Australian coastline to be charted.
But he never realised that the strange coast he’d stumbled upon was part of a continent unknown to Europeans. This was due to the fact that he had no evidence of the existence of the channel of water that separates New Guinea and Australia (we now call Torres Strait). Looking at the two unfinished coastlines on his map of New Guinea and the western side of Cape York Peninsula, he suggested the two land masses might be connected.
Ironically, in the same year as the Duyfken’s expedition, a Spanish ship negotiated the strait from the east. Records made by the ship’s captain, Luis Vaz de Torres, were largely unknown until they were translated by Scottish geographer Alexander Dalrymple in 1769.
Despite the best efforts of the Dutch, it would take another century and a half before the unknown south land would be identified as a separate continent by Captain James Cook.
Future explorers were to refer to Janzoon’s map and log. But the significance of the Duyfken’s first landing would eventually fade from human memory over the centuries. Fortunately, copies of the original chart were made in the 1670s. One of these became part of a collection of sea charts, sometimes referred to as the ‘secret atlas’ of the Dutch East India Company.
Sold to the Vienna Imperial Library in 1737, the collection remained in obscurity for nearly two centuries. It wasn’t until the chart was brought to light and published in 1930 that Australia was provided with significant evidence of its earliest European history.
Through their travels, the crew of the Duyfken also became the first Europeans to encounter Australian Aborigines. It was not to be an auspicious start to relations between the two peoples – a bloody conflict ensued with lives lost on both sides.


Captain Willem Janszoon sailed the Duyfken east of Indonesia to investigate rumours that New Guinea had large deposits of gold. Janszoon sailed along New Guinea’s south coast to the country’s most southwestern point before heading south east.It was during a search for new commercial opportunities in 1606 that a ship owned by the Dutch East India Company made the first recorded European contact with Australia.

Captain Willem Janszoon sailed the Duyfken east of Indonesia to investigate rumours that New Guinea had large deposits of gold. Janszoon sailed along New Guinea’s south coast to the country’s most southwestern point before heading south east.

When Janszoon and his crew next saw land, they entered history as the first known Europeans to sight Australia. They anchored at Pennefather River, about 150km south of Cape York, before becoming the first Europeans to walk on Australian soil. Janszoon went on to map over 300km of the Cape York Peninsula’s western coast – the very first section of Australian coastline to be charted.

But he never realised that the strange coast he’d stumbled upon was part of a continent unknown to Europeans. This was due to the fact that he had no evidence of the existence of the channel of water that separates New Guinea and Australia (we now call Torres Strait). Looking at the two unfinished coastlines on his map of New Guinea and the western side of Cape York Peninsula, he suggested the two land masses might be connected.

Ironically, in the same year as the Duyfken’s expedition, a Spanish ship negotiated the strait from the east. Records made by the ship’s captain, Luis Vaz de Torres, were largely unknown until they were translated by Scottish geographer Alexander Dalrymple in 1769.

Despite the best efforts of the Dutch, it would take another century and a half before the unknown south land would be identified as a separate continent by Captain James Cook. 



Caption: A copy of the original map of Duyfken’s route to Pennefather River on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula.

Future explorers were to refer to Janzoon’s map and log. But the significance of the Duyfken’s first landing would eventually fade from human memory over the centuries. Fortunately, copies of the original chart were made in the 1670s. One of these became part of a collection of sea charts, sometimes referred to as the ‘secret atlas’ of the Dutch East India Company.

Sold to the Vienna Imperial Library in 1737, the collection remained in obscurity for nearly two centuries. It wasn’t until the chart was brought to light and published in 1930 that Australia was provided with significant evidence of its earliest European history.

Through their travels, the crew of the Duyfken also became the first Europeans to encounter Australian Aborigines. It was not to be an auspicious start to relations between the two peoples – a bloody conflict ensued with lives lost on both sides.



When Janszoon and his crew next saw land, they entered history as the first known Europeans to sight Australia. They anchored at Pennefather River, about 150km south of Cape York, before becoming the first Europeans to walk on Australian soil. Janszoon went on to map over 300km of the Cape York Peninsula’s western coast – the very first section of Australian coastline to be charted.

But he never realised that the strange coast he’d stumbled upon was part of a continent unknown to Europeans. This was due to the fact that he had no evidence of the existence of the channel of water that separates New Guinea and Australia (we now call Torres Strait). Looking at the two unfinished coastlines on his map of New Guinea and the western side of Cape York Peninsula, he suggested the two land masses might be connected.

Ironically, in the same year as the Duyfken’s expedition, a Spanish ship negotiated the strait from the east. Records made by the ship’s captain, Luis Vaz de Torres, were largely unknown until they were translated by Scottish geographer Alexander Dalrymple in 1769.

Despite the best efforts of the Dutch, it would take another century and a half before the unknown south land would be identified as a separate continent by Captain James Cook. 



Caption: A copy of the original map of Duyfken’s route to Pennefather River on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula.

Future explorers were to refer to Janzoon’s map and log. But the significance of the Duyfken’s first landing would eventually fade from human memory over the centuries. Fortunately, copies of the original chart were made in the 1670s. One of these became part of a collection of sea charts, sometimes referred to as the ‘secret atlas’ of the Dutch East India Company.

Sold to the Vienna Imperial Library in 1737, the collection remained in obscurity for nearly two centuries. It wasn’t until the chart was brought to light and published in 1930 that Australia was provided with significant evidence of its earliest European history.

Through their travels, the crew of the Duyfken also became the first Europeans to encounter Australian Aborigines. It was not to be an auspicious start to relations between the two peoples – a bloody conflict ensued with lives lost on both sides.




It was during a search for new commercial opportunities in 1606 that a ship owned by the Dutch East India Company made the first recorded European contact with Australia.

Captain Willem Janszoon sailed the Duyfken east of Indonesia to investigate rumours that New Guinea had large deposits of gold. Janszoon sailed along New Guinea’s south coast to the country’s most southwestern point before heading south east.

When Janszoon and his crew next saw land, they entered history as the first known Europeans to sight Australia. They anchored at Pennefather River, about 150km south of Cape York, before becoming the first Europeans to walk on Australian soil. Janszoon went on to map over 300km of the Cape York Peninsula’s western coast – the very first section of Australian coastline to be charted.

But he never realised that the strange coast he’d stumbled upon was part of a continent unknown to Europeans. This was due to the fact that he had no evidence of the existence of the channel of water that separates New Guinea and Australia (we now call Torres Strait). Looking at the two unfinished coastlines on his map of New Guinea and the western side of Cape York Peninsula, he suggested the two land masses might be connected.

Ironically, in the same year as the Duyfken’s expedition, a Spanish ship negotiated the strait from the east. Records made by the ship’s captain, Luis Vaz de Torres, were largely unknown until they were translated by Scottish geographer Alexander Dalrymple in 1769.

Despite the best efforts of the Dutch, it would take another century and a half before the unknown south land would be identified as a separate continent by Captain James Cook. 



Caption: A copy of the original map of Duyfken’s route to Pennefather River on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula.

Future explorers were to refer to Janzoon’s map and log. But the significance of the Duyfken’s first landing would eventually fade from human memory over the centuries. Fortunately, copies of the original chart were made in the 1670s. One of these became part of a collection of sea charts, sometimes referred to as the ‘secret atlas’ of the Dutch East India Company.

Sold to the Vienna Imperial Library in 1737, the collection remained in obscurity for nearly two centuries. It wasn’t until the chart was brought to light and published in 1930 that Australia was provided with significant evidence of its earliest European history.

Through their travels, the crew of the Duyfken also became the first Europeans to encounter Australian Aborigines. It was not to be an auspicious start to relations between the two peoples – a bloody conflict ensued with lives lost on both sides.