1623: Gulf of Carpentaria

As more coastline was mapped in the region south of New Guinea, so grew the Dutch East India Company’s interest in the possibility of commercial opportunities in the area.

There was renewed speculation in the company that the region may have included the ‘Land of Beach’, which Marco Polo had reported in the 1200s as being abundant in gold.

In January 1623, the company sent two ships – the Pera, captained by Jan Carstenszoon, and the Arnhem, under the command of Willem Colster – to chart the coastline to the south of the area Willem Janszoon had mapped on the Duyfken in 1606.

Carstenszoon was forced to abandon his voyage about 150km from the south eastern corner of the Gulf of Carpentaria when Aborigines prevented his crew from replenishing their water supplies.

On their return voyage to Indonesia, Colster left the company of the Pera and headed the Arnhem on a long north-west course. On this journey he sighted an unknown coastline – what we now know as the west coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

He named it ‘Arnhem Land’ after his ship. With this new information, Carstenzoon presumed a gulf had been discovered. He named it the ‘Gulf of Carpentaria’ after a governor general of the Dutch East India Company.

Gulf of Carpentaria

On a voyage of exploration in 1623, Willem Colster sighted coastline that he named Arhnem Land, after his ship.