Tasman 1642

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. This was despite reports from earlier Dutch explorers highlighting the desolate terrain and lack of water. The company’s high officials began entertaining the idea that this emerging region might be the fabled land of ‘Beach’ that Marco Polo had reported years earlier as being abundant in gold.

With this in mind, Abel Tasman and cartographer Franchoijs Visscher were ordered to investigate more of the south land in 1642. During this voyage Tasman famously circumnavigated the south land but did little to fulfil his instructions, nor discover more about the country itself. He rarely came in contact with the coast and his only contributions to the Australian map were confined to the southern half of Tasmania, which he named ‘Van Diemen's Land’.  Although Tasman surveyed little of the coastline, his voyage offered cartographers a sense of the south land’s size as well as establishing that it was not connected to any landmass thought to have existed further south or east.

In 1644, Tasman and Visscher were again sent to sea. Their orders were to sail from the east coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria to Willems River (probably what we know today as the Ashburton River, about 20km south of Onslow). They successfully charted over 3,700km between these two points, adding significantly to the northern half of the map of the south land. He renamed this land mass ‘New Holland’.