Dutch Maritime Ventures
In 1606 the Duyfken, owned by the Dutch East India Company
and stationed in the East Indies, made a voyage of exploration looking
for "east and south lands" which took it on the first historically recorded
voyage to Australia.
That was part of the Dutch expansion into the Spice Trade between Asia
and Europe. The newly formed Dutch nation, the United Provinces, was
already by the far the most successful shipping nation in Europe. They
owned far more ships than any other nation. England had only about one-eighth
the number of ships.
The Spanish, with whom the Dutch were at war, could not ban Dutch shipping
from their ports because they were so dependent on grain brought from
the Baltic by Dutch ships.
There were a number of reasons for the Dutch success. The new nation
was ruled more by merchants than the aristocracy. Many ships were owned
and operated by cooperatives or partnerships. Modern systems of credit,
insurance, and trade were developed in Amsterdam.
Dutch shipwrights, building plank-first, evolving the shape of the
ship by eye, were able to build whatever shape they thought would serve
best, whereas builders of frame-first ships were constrained by the
type of shapes they could develop by unsophisticated techniques of drawing
a ship's plan.
Insignia of the Dutch
East Indies Company
The Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) was set up to coordinate the activities
of several Dutch companies competing in the Spice Trade - to provide
a united opposition to the Portuguese, Spanish and English competitors.
The Company was given the power to wage wars and to make treaties with
foreign princes; powers which no King would give away to merchants.
The VOC became the largest corporation in world. Not only did it monopolise
the spice trade to Europe it took over much of the shipping in Asia.
VOC ships sometimes sighted the Australian coast on their way to Java
and voyages of discovery to Australia and New Zealand were made by VOC
ships during the 17th century.