Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/102

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
69
AUSTRALIA BEFORE FLINDERS

plate, in turn, remained till 1817, when the French navigator, Freycinet, took it and sent it to Paris.

After Hartog reported his discovery, the Dutch directors ordered their ships' captains to run east from the Cape till they sighted the land. This would enable them to verify their whereabouts; for in those days the means of reckoning positions at sea were so imperfect that navigators groped about the oceans of the globe almost as if they were sailing in darkness. But here was a means of verifying a ship's position after her long run across from the Cape, and if she found Dirk Hartog Island, she could safely thence make her way north to Java.

But ships did not always sight the Australian coast at the same point. Hence it came about that in 1619 J. de Edel "accidentally fell in with" the coast at the back of the Abrolhos. Pieter Nuyts, in 1627, "accidentally discovered" a long reach of the south coast. Similarly, in 1628, the Vianen was "accidentally," as the narrative says, driven on to the north-west coast, and her commander, De Wit, gave his name to about 200 miles of it. In 1629 the Dutch ship Batavia was separated in a storm from a merchant fleet of eleven sail, and ran upon the Abrolhos Reef. The captain, Francis Pelsart, who was lying sick in his cabin at the time of the misadventure, "called up the master and charged him with the loss of the ship, who excused himself by saying he had taken all the care he could; and that having discerned the froth at a distance he asked the steersman what he thought of it, who told him that the sea appeared white by its reflecting the rays of the moon. The captain then asked him what was to be done, and in what part of the world he thought they were. The master replied that God only knew that; and that the ship was on a bank hitherto undiscovered." The story of Pelsart's adventure was recorded, and