Abel Tasman

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Abel Tasman : biography

1 January 1603. – 10 October 1659

In August 1642, the Council of the Indies, consisting of Antonie van Diemen, Cornelis van der Lijn, Joan Maetsuycker, Justus Schouten, Salomon Sweers, Cornelis Witsen, and Pieter Boreel in Batavia despatched Abel Tasman and Franchoijs Visscher on a voyage of which one of the objects was to obtain knowledge of "all the totally unknown provinces of Beach".J.E. Heeres, "Abel Janszoon Tasman, His Life and Labours", Abel Tasman’s Journal, Los Angeles, 1965, pp.137, 141–2; cited in Andrew Sharp, The Voyages of Abel Janszoon Tasman, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1968, p.24.

Beach and Terra Australis

Beach appeared on maps of the time, notably that of Abraham Ortelius of 1570 and that of Jan Huygen van Linschoten of 1596, as the northernmost part of the southern continent, the Terra Australis, along with Locach. According to Marco Polo, Locach was a kingdom where gold was “so plentiful that noone who did not see it could believe it”. Beach was in fact a mistranscription of Locach. Locach was Marco Polo’s name for the southern Thai kingdom of Lavo, or Lop Buri, the “city of Lavo”, (ลพบร, after Lavo, the son of Rama in Hindu mythology).G. E. Gerini, Researches on Ptolemy’s geography of Eastern Asia (further India and Indo-Malay archipelago), London, Royal Asiatic Society, Asiatic Society Monographs vol.1, 1909, p.180. In Chinese (Cantonese), Lavo was pronounced “Lo-huk” (羅斛), from which Marco Polo took his rendition of the name.Paul Pelliot, Notes on Marco Polo, Paris, Imprimerie Nationale, 1963, Vol.II, pp.768–9, note 2. In the German cursive script, “Locach” and “Beach” look similar, and in the 1532 edition of Marco Polo’s Travels his Locach was changed to Boëach, later shortened to Beach.Simon Grynaeus and Johann Huttich, Novus Orbis Regionum ac Insularum, Basel and Paris, 1532, Marco Polo cap.xi, “De provincia Boëach”; cited in Thomas Suarez, Early Mapping of Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Periplus, 1999, p.160. They seem to have drawn on the map of the world published in Florence in 1489 by Henricus Martellus, in which provincia boëach appears as the southern neighbour of provincia ciamba. Book III of Marco Polo’s Il Milione described his journey by sea from China to India by way of Champa (= Southern Vietnam), Java (which he called Java Major), Locach and Sumatra (called Java Minor). After a chapter describing the kingdom of Champa there follows a chapter describing Java (which he did not visit himself).Milione: il Milione nelle redazioni toscana e franco–italiana, Le Divisament dou Monde, Gabriella Ponchi (ed.), Milano, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, 1982, p.540: cap. clxiii, "La grant isle de Java". The narrative then resumes, describing the route southward from Champa toward Sumatra, but by a slip of the pen the name “Java” was substituted for “Champa” as the point of departure, locating Sumatra 1,300 miles to the south of Java instead of Champa. Locach, located between Champa and Sumatra, was likewise misplaced far to the south of Java, by some geographers on or near an extension of the Terra Australis.James R. McClymont, “The Theory of an Antipodal Southern Continent during the Sixteenth Century”, Report of the Fourth Meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, Hobart, January 1892, Hobart, the Association, 1893, pp.442–462; Paul Pelliot, Notes on Marco Polo, Paris, Imprimerie Nationale, 1963, Vol.II, p.769. As explained by Sir Henry Yule, the editor of an English edition of Marco Polo’s Travels: “Some geographers of the 16th century, following the old editions which carried the travellers south-east of Java to the land of “Boeach” (or Locac), introduced in their maps a continent in that situation”.Sir Henry Yule (ed.), The Book of Ser Marco Polo, London, Murray, 1921, Volume 2, pp.276–280. Gerard Mercator did just that on his 1541 globe, placing Beach provincia aurifera (“Beach the gold-bearing province”) in the northernmost part of the Terra Australis in accordance with the faulty text of Marco Polo’s Travels. It remained in this location on his world map of 1569, with the amplified description, quoting Marco Polo, Beach provincia aurifera quam pauci ex alienis regionibus adeunt propter gentis inhumanitatem (“Beach the gold-bearing province, wither few go from other countries because of the inhumanity of its people”) with Lucach regnum shown somewhat to its south west.Peter van der Krogt, Globi Neerlandici: The Production of Globes in the Low Countries, Utrecht, HES Publishers, 1993, p.64, plate 2.14. Following Mercator, Abraham Ortelius also showed BEACH and LVCACH in these locations on his world map of 1571. Likewise, Linschoten’s very popular 1596 map of the East Indies showed BEACH projecting from the map’s southern edge, leading (or misleading) Visscher and Tasman in their voyage of 1642 to seek Beach with its plentiful gold in a location to the south of the Solomon Islands somewhere between Staten Land near Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope.Andrew Sharp, The Voyages of Abel Janszoon Tasman, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1968, pp.25. Confirmation that land existed where the maps showed Beach to be had come from Dirk Hartog’s landing in October 1616 on its west coast, which he called Eendrachtsland after the name of his ship. Abel Tasman endured a very rough journey from Tasmania to New Zealand. In one of his diary entries Tasman credits his compass, claiming it was the only thing that kept him alive.