1642-44: Tasmania and Australia’s northern coast

Keen to continue investigations into whether the south land offered any commercial opportunities, the Dutch East India Company sent Abel Tasman and cartographer Franchoijs Visscher on a voyage of discovery in 1642.

Tasman famously circumnavigated the south land but did little to fulfill his instructions, nor discover more about the landmass.

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 sent to sea again. This time 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 replaced all previous names given by Dutch navigators with one – ‘New Holland’.

Tasman undertook two voyages between 1642-44 that chartered nearly 4000km of coastline – the most significant contribution to the map of Australia in the 1600s.