the end of the 16th century, the newly independent Dutch republic
launched courageous voyages of exploration looking for new routes
to the Indies. This exploration was followed with great excitement.
Accounts of the voyages were published and immediately translated
into other languages including English.
The published account of the first fully successful voyage to
the Indies, lead by Jacob van Neck, conveys some of the delight
and wonder of mariners visiting exotic lands for the first time.
In January 1599, four ships stopped at the East Javanese port
of Tuban which they thought
"a very fine place … very trim and gallant".
There they witnessed a tournament.
"The same day in the evening, we saw many people assembling
in every street with their weapons in very gallant and comely
sort after their manner, having very many gentlemen among
them on horse-back, which could very well ride and manage
their horses, in running, Tourneis, breaking of lances, and
hunting … "
noted the horses saddles:
"rich and costly Saddles made of velvet, and some
of Spanish Leather, painted with grisly Dragons and fearful
Divels, for the most part gilded … Their bridles are
garnished with precious stones … the bits are also made
very fine and costly with 2 bosses of silver …"
The Duyfken re-enactment will be an expedition to rediscover
the Age of Exploration
and recreate the experience of wonder and awe.
Duyfken's voyage will start from her homeport of Fremantle,
Western Australia, on April 8.
Sailing north we will pass the wreck sites of four large Dutch
East India Company ships: Zeewijk, Zuytdorp, Batavia and Vergulde
These were ships that sailed a little too far east before turning
north to catch the southeast trade winds up to Indonesia.
and day-to-day utensils from the shipwrecks are now displayed
in the Western Australian Maritime Museum (where Duyfken
was built) and some of those artefacts are recreated on board
The wreck site of the Vergulde Draeck is just a day's sail
north of Fremantle. The ship was wrecked in late April 1656.
Of the 193 persons on board, 75 reached shore and a party of
seven men in the ship's boat were sent to get help from Batavia
in the Dutch East Indies. Expeditions were organised to look
for the survivors, but none were ever found. Three men from
the ship De Goede Hoop disappeared searching on shore in 1656,
and in 1658, fifteen men from the ship Waeckende Boey went ashore
to investigate the wreck site but did not return. The weather
was bad and their boat was damaged getting ashore. Left marooned
on an unknown shore, they repaired their boat and sailed to
Java where they were again shipwrecked. Only three survived
the trek across Java to Batavia.
The next two wreck sites, Batavia and Zeewijk are further north,
in the archipelago of reefs and small sandy islands called Houtman's
events following the wreck of the Batavia in 1628 are a horror
story that probably influenced the behaviour of the crews and
officers in the later wreckings. The captain, most of the officers
and some privileged passengers took the ship's boat apparently
to look for water, leaving 285 on a barren island. They found
no water but were provisioned adequately for a longer voyage
and sailed to Java to get help. It was months before the rescue
mission returned to the Abrolhos. They found many of the marooned
sailors and passengers had been murdered in reign of terror
presided over by chief merchant Cornelisz. Cornelisz and some
of his accomplices were immediately tried for mutiny and executed.
The accusation of mutiny seems to have been formulated before
the rescue mission, led by Batavia's captain, reached the Abrolhos,
and since Cornelisz was the most senior man left on the island,
he could not have mutinied whatever else his crimes were.
When the Zeewijk was wrecked on the Abrolhos some eighty years
later, the crew may have had the Batavia story in mind. Certainly
they did not allow the officers to leave in the ship's boat
to get help. They decided to build a small ship, large enough
to carry all eighty survivors and some salvaged cargo to Java.
This was the first recorded ship building in Australia's history.
The small ship or jacht, sometimes called the "Sloepie"
meaning small sloop was built from timbers of the wrecked Zeewijk
and shaped mangrove timbers from the neighbouring coast. She
was more than a small sloop and the name seems to have been
The wreck-site of the Zuytdorp is further north, near the mouth
of the Murchison river. Zuytdorp hit the coast in an area where
there are cliffs. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that survivors
from the Zuytdorp got ashore. It is thought that she struck
the cliffs side on and keeled over so that survivors could scramble
via the rigging onto the shore. The question is what happened
to those survivors. There has been ongoing debate since the
wreck was discovered in the 1960s.
At the top of the cliffs near the wreck, remains of large fires
were found. Burnt remains included barrel rings, and brass hinges
and clasps, suggesting that items such as chests and barrels
were used to create a large fire to attract the attention of
a passing ships. Artefacts have been found at other sites near
wells and up to 30 kilometres from the wreck site, indicating
that they were either taken there by survivors or Aboriginal
day's sail further north (if conditions are favourable) we come
to Dirck Hartog's Island at the mouth of Shark's Bay. Dirck
Hartog and his crew on the VOC ship Eendracht made a landing
here in 1616, the first recorded landing on Australian shores
since Duyfken's voyage ten years earlier. It was the
first recorded sighting of the western shores of Australia and
began the delineation of the outline of the Australian continent
which the VOC pursued for the next century.
Another day's sail to the north (unless it takes longer) close
to Northwest Cape, is a landing site of special significance
to Duyfken. In 1618, Willem Janszoon, who had been skipper
of Duyfken on her historic voyage of discovery, met with
the Australian continent again.
Our next destination, Dampier, is named after the only Englishman
to explore the Australian coast before James Cook. The name
Dampier was given to the archipelago of islands here by Phillip
Parker King, a great Australian explorer of the 19th century.
P.P. King, who was born on Norfolk Island and whose father was
the third Governor of the colony of New South Wales, charted
more of the Australian coast than any other navigator/surveyor.
Most of his long surveying voyages, circumnavigating Australia,
were made in a ship smaller than Duyfken -- the single-masted
From the rugged spendour of the Dampier Archipelago with its
rocky islands, swirling tides and mysterious Aboriginal rock
art (perhaps depicting early Dutch or Indonesian contact), we
sail to Port Hedland, an iron-ore port that must have some attraction.
Then on to Broome, a port which boomed as the centre of the
pearl and pearl-shell industry in the late 19th century and
first half of the 20th century. The pearling industry attracted
and recruited crews, divers, and specialists from Indonesia,
the Philippines, Japan, Greece and China, and this wonderful
mix of cultures still gives Broome much of its special character.