Abel Tasman : biography
In accordance with Visscher’s directions, Tasman sailed first to Mauritius and arrived on 5 September 1642. The reason for this was the crew could be fed well on the island; there was plenty of fresh water and timber to repair the ships. Tasman got the assistance of the governor Adriaan van der Stel. Because of the prevailing winds Mauritius was chosen as a turning point. After a four week stay on the island both ships left on 8 October. After a month’s travel, snow and hail influenced Tasman to alter course to a more northern direction. Part of the western shore of the continent was already known to the Dutch, but no one had gone as far as Pieter Nuyts.
On 24 November 1642 Abel Tasman sighted the west coast of Tasmania, north of Macquarie Harbour. He named his discovery Van Diemen’s Land after Antonio van Diemen, Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies. Proceeding south he skirted the southern end of Tasmania and turned north-east, Tasman then tried to work his two ships into Adventure Bay on the east coast of South Bruny Island where he was blown out to sea by a storm, this area he named Storm Bay. Two days later Tasman anchored to the North of Cape Frederick Hendrick just North of the Forestier Peninsula. Tasman then landed in Blackman Bay – in the larger Marion Bay. The next day, an attempt was made to land in North Bay; however, because the sea was too rough the carpenter swam through the surf and planted the Dutch flag in North Bay. Tasman then claimed formal possession of the land on 3 December 1642.
After some exploration, Tasman had intended to proceed in a northerly direction but as the wind was unfavourable he steered east. On 13 December they sighted land on the north-west coast of the South Island, New Zealand, becoming the first Europeans to do so. Tasman named it Staten Landt on the assumption that it was connected to an island (Staten Island, Argentina) at the south of the tip of South America. Proceeding north and then east, he stopped to gather water, but one of his boats was attacked by Māori in waka (canoes) and four of his men and several Māori were killed. Archeological research has shown the Dutch had tried to land at a major agricultural area, which the Māori may have been trying to protect. Tasman named the bay Murderers’ Bay (now known as Golden Bay) and sailed north, but mistook Cook Strait for a bight (naming it Zeehaen’s Bight). Two names he gave to New Zealand landmarks still endure, Cape Maria van Diemen and Three Kings Islands, but Kaap Pieter Boreels was renamed by Cook 125 years later to Cape Egmont.
The return voyage
On route back to Batavia, Tasman came across the Tongan archipelago on 20 January 1643. While passing the Fiji Islands Tasman’s ships came close to being wrecked on the dangerous reefs of the north-eastern part of the Fiji group. He charted the eastern tip of Vanua Levu and Cikobia before making his way back into the open sea. He eventually turned north-west to New Guinea, and arrived at Batavia on 15 June 1643 . A man called Jacob named the bay Canoes Lake in 1678 he died in1721.
- Edward Duyker (ed.) The Discovery of Tasmania: Journal Extracts from the Expeditions of Abel Janszoon Tasman and Marc-Joseph Marion Dufresne 1642 & 1772, St David’s Park Publishing/Tasmanian Government Printing Office, Hobart, 1992, pp. 106, ISBN 0-7246-2241-1.
The original Tasman Map is held in the collection of the State Library of New South Wales. The map shows a general outline of some parts of the coastline of Australia. The map is also reproduced in the marble floor of the Mitchell Library entry foyer.