Early Voyages to Terra Australis/Extract from the Book of Dispatches from Batavia

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Instructions for the commodore, Captain Abel Jansz Tasman, the skipper chief-pilot, Franz Jacobsz Visser, and the counsel of the yachts Limmen and Zeemeuw, and the tender de Brak, destined for a nearer discovery of New Guinea and the unknown coasts of the discovered east and south lands, together with the channels and the islands supposed to be situated between and near them.

The several successive administrations of India, in order to enlarge and extend the trade of the Dutch East India company, have zealously endeavoured to make an early discovery of the great land of New Guinea and other unknown east and southerly countries, as you know by several discourses, and maps, journals, and papers communicated to you. But hitherto with little success, although several voyages have been undertaken.

1st. By order of the president, John Williamson Verschoor, who at that time directed the company's trade at Bantam, which was in the year 1606, with the yacht the Duyfhen, who in their passage sailed by the islands Key and Aroum, and discovered the south and west coast of New Guinea for about 220 miles (880) from 5° to 13¾° south latitude: and found this extensive country, for the greater part desert, but in some places inhabited by wild, cruel black savages, by whom some of the crew were murdered; for which reason they could not learn anything of the land or waters, as had been desired of them, and by want of provisions and other necessaries they were obliged to leave the discovery unfinished: the furthest point of the land was called in their map Cape Keer-Weer*, situated in 13¾° South.

The second voyage was undertaken with a yacht in the year 1617 by order of the Fiscal D'Edel, with little success, of which adventures and discoveries, through the loss of their journals and remarks, nothing certain is to be found.

From this time the further discoveries of the unknown east and south countries were postponed until the year 1623 on account of there being no ships to spare; but in the interim, in the year 1619, a ship named the Arms of Amsterdam, destined to Banda, drove past that place and touched at the south coast of New Guinea, where some of the crew were murdered by the savage inhabitants, wherefore they acquired no certain knowledge of the country.

But in the meantime, in the years 1616, 1618, 1619 and 1622, the west coast of this great unknown south land from 35° to 22° S. latitude was discovered by outward bound ships, and among them by the ship Endraght; for the nearer discovery of which the governor-general, Jan Pietersz Coen (of worthy memory) in September, 1622, despatched the yachts De Haring and Harewind; but this voyage was rendered abortive by meeting the ship Mauritius, and searching after the ship Rotterdam.

* Cape Turn-again.

In consequence of which, by order of His excellency, the third voyage was undertaken in the month of January 1623, with the yachts Pera and Arnhem out of Amboina, under the command of Jan Carstens; with order to make a nearer friendship with the inhabitants of the islands Key, Aroum, and Tenimber, and better to discover New Guinea and the south lands, when an alliance was made with the said islands and south coast of New Guinea nearer discovered. The skipper, with eight of the crew of the yacht Arnhem, was treacherously murdered by the inhabitants; and after a discovery of the great islands Arnhem and the Spult (by an untimely Separation) this yacht, with very little success, came back to Amboina.

But the yacht Pera, persisting in the voyage, sailed along the south coast of New Guinea to a flat cove on this coast, situated in 10° south latitude, and ran along the west coast of this land to Cape Keer-Weer, from thence discovered the coast farther southward as far as 17° South to Staten River (from this place what more of the land could be discerned seemed to stretch westward) and from thence returned to Amboina.

In this discovery were found everywhere shallow water and barren coast; islands altogether thinly peopled by divers cruel, poor, and brutal nations, and of very little use to the Company. Countries may be seen on the maps which were made of them.

Through the little success of this third voyage, but mostly because no ships could be spared, the discovery was again omitted until 1636, but in the interim, in the year 1627, the south coast of the great south land was accidentally discovered by the ship Gulde Zeepard, outward bound from Fatherland*, for the space of 250 miles (1000) and again accidentally in the year following, 1628, on the north side in the latitude of 21° South, by the ship Vianen, homeward bound from India when they coasted about 50 miles (200) without gaining any particular knowledge of this great country, only observing a foul and barren shore, green fields and very wild, black, barbarous inhabitants; all which, by the loss of the ship Batavia and the cruelties and miseries which followed from that, if fully proved, and was experienced by the crew of the yacht Sardam, in their course along this coast.

* The expressive epithet both of the Dutch and Germans for their native country.

At last the fourth voyage was undertaken (in our government) in the month of April 1636 from Banda with the yachts Clyn Amsterdam and Wesel, under the command of Gerrit Tomasz Pool for the discovery of the east and south lands; when they first discovered the coast of New Guinea in 3½° south latitude, and coasted about sixty miles (240) to the eastward to 5° South, when the commodore Pool, with three of the crew (by the barbarous inhabitants) was murdered at the same place where the skipper of that yacht Arnhem was killed in the year 1623.

Notwithstanding which the voyage was assiduously continued under the supercargo Pieter Pietersz and, the islands Key and Arnoum visited by very strong easterly winds, they could not reach the west coast to New Guinea but, shaping their course very near south, described the coast of Arnhem or Van Diemen's Land in 11° south latitude, and sailed along the coast for 30 miles (120) without seeing any people, but many signs of smoke; when, turning towards the north, they visited the unknown islands of Timor Laut* and the known islands of Tenimber, Kauwer, etc., but without ever being able to converse with the inhabitants who were a very timid people when, after three months cruising, they returned in July to Banda, without (in this voyage) having done or discovered anything of consequence; which may be seen by the journals and maps.

After the little success in these voyages nothing further

* The word "laut" means south, but is erroneously spelt in the original translation "landt." A similar blunder has been abundantly repeated on the maps of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the name of "Laut Chidol," the Southern Sea, there spelt constantly Lantchidol.

After the little success in these voyages nothing further was attempted on discovery to the eastward, but last year (under your direction) the discovery of the remaining unknown south lands was assiduously reattempted; and in that remarkable voyage was that great unknown Staten* and Van Diemen's Land discovered from 35 to 43° south latitude, and at the same time the (so long wished for) passage to the South Sea, but it is unnecessary to relate more here as you are perfectly acquainted with all particulars.

But to obtain a thorough knowledge of these extensive countries, the discovery whereof has been begun (in consequence of the intention of the Company and the recommendation of our masters) now only remains for the future to discover whether New Guinea is one continent with that great south land, or separated by channels and islands lying between them; and also whether that New Van Diemen's Land is the same continent with these two great countries or with one of them or, if separated from them, what islands may be dispersed between New Guinea and the unknown south land when, after more experience and knowledge of all the said known and unknown countries, we shall be better enabled for further undertakings.

After considering all that is above related and, by our estimate of the present strength of the Company's naval forces, it is found that, without prejudice to the ordinary trading and warlike expeditions, two or three yachts could be spared, it is therefore resolved in the Council of India to equip the yachts Limmen, the Zeemeuw, and the Brak for the further discovery of the east and south lands to furnish them well with all necessaries, and commit them to your conduct, in confidence that you will with courage, vigilance, prudence, good order, and the requisite perseverance, skilfully direct this important voyage in such a manner as to be capable to give an account on your return fully to our contentment.

* New Zealand

1st. You shall early tomorrow morning, after mustering your men, proceed to sea in company and steer a course to Macassar, Amboina, and Banda, as the service of the Company shall require, and by separate instructions you are commanded, by which you are entirely to regulate your voyage to the above places.

On your arrival at Amboina and Banda you shall plentifully stock your yachts with water, fuel, and all other necessaries; in the time you are there the crews are to be supplied with all sorts of fresh provisions, and well provided for the voyage, for which purpose this shall be an order to the vice-governors* Gerrit Demmer and Cornelis Witzen, to whom you have to communicate your instructions and demand in writing the further knowledge they may have of the countries situated to the east of Banda; and particularly the journal of the commodore Carstens, which we think may still be found there, and be of some service to you on the voyage.

But by this we by no means intend you shall spend time unprofitably, but despatch everything so assiduously that you may leave Banda in the latter end of February, when the west monsoon had set in, fixing, with the advice of the council, instructions for the signals at the beginning of your voyage, in which particularly is to be inserted by what method the yachts may join, in case (which God prevent) they by storm or other accidents were separated, upon which the good success of the intended voyage chiefly depends.

* At that time the governor-general, in instructions or issuing orders, styled all the other governors, vice-governors.]

After fulfilling your orders at Amboina and Banda you shall (as is mentioned) in the latter end of February (or sooner if possible) undertake in the name of God the voyage you are ordered upon, and steer your course eastward between and in view of the islands Tenimber, Key, and Aroum, to the point True or False Cape situated in 8° on the south of New Guinea; from which place you are to continue eastward along the coast till 9° south latitude, crossing prudently the cove at that place looking about the high island or Spelut's River with the yachts for a harbour, and to inspect into the state of the country; dispatching the tender Brak for two or three days into the cove in order to discover whether within the great inlet there is not to be found an entrance into the South Sea which soon may be determined by the current of the streams. From this place you are to coast along the west coast of New Guinea to the farthest discoveries in 170° South latitude, following this coast farther as it may run west of southward.

But it is to be feared you will meet in these parts with South-East trade-winds, by which it will be difficult to keep the coast on board, if stretching to the South-East, but notwithstanding this endeavour by all means to proceed, by reason that we may be sure whether this land is divided from the great known south continent or not, which by the great and slow swell from the South-East may well be perceived; in which case you shall try (if possible) to run so far to the South-East as the New Van Diemen's Land, and from thence to the islands of St. Peter and St. Francois, to learn the situation of these to the northward, and at the same time to be assured (which is much wished for) a passage to the South Sea between them and the known south land, which found (as we presume and hope) you ought, returning through the discovered passage, to steer along the east coast of the known south land according to its trending, following its direction to the westward to De Wit's Land and William's River in 22° south latitude, when the known south land would be entirely circumnavigated and discovered to be the largest island of the globe.

But if (as we presume) the land of New Guinea is joined to the south land and in consequence is one continent, you will be enabled by the South-East trade-wind to run along the north coast from 17 to 22° South, and this entirely to discover this land from whence (if wind and weather by any means will permit) you shall steer along the land of De Eendragt to Houtman's Abrolhos, and come to an anchor at a fit place thereabout; and endeavour to find a chest containing eight thousand rix dollars that remained in the wreck of the ship Batavia, a brass half cartow* having fallen on that chest when it foundered at that place in the year 1629, and which the crew of the yacht Sardam dragged for in vain. At the same time you shall (if possible) recover that piece, by this you will render service to the Company, for which reason be not negligent in the discharge of your duty.

Likewise inquire at the continent thereabout after two Dutchmen who, having forfeited their lives, were put on shore by the commodore Francois Pelsart, if still alive, in which case you may make your inquiries of them about the situation of these countries, and if they entreat you to that purpose give them passage hither; on this occasion you ought to search for a good water and refreshing place about the 26 or 28° South latitude, which would be a desirable thing for the outwardbound ships.

But if the late time of the year and the appearance of storms will not permit you to reach Houtman's Shoal which, after experience, we leave to yours and the council's own judgment, consider how you have to sail again from William's River to the east, along the coast of the south land and from De Wit's Land, by the help of the South-East trade-wind, to run across very near eastward to complete the discovery of Arnhem's and Van Diemen's Lands; and to ascertain perfectly whether these lands are not one and the same island, and what these places produce; likewise what other islands besides Baly, Sumbava, and Timor may be situated about the south land.

* Or 24-pounder. (Note in Dalrymple.)]

After all this (by the help of God) shall be fortunately transacted, which we hope can be done before the end of the month of June (having either reached Houtman's Abrolhos or Van Diemen's Land) you have to steer your course to the south coast of Java, and along the coast through the Strait of Sunda to return to Batavia: at which place we shall expect you in July following attended with good success.

Of all the lands, countries, islands, capes, points or coves, inlets, bays, rivers, shoals, reefs, sands, cliffs, rocks, etc., which you meet with and pass in this discovery, as well upon the coast of New Guinea and the south land, as in the Indian Ocean and inland seas, you are to make accurate maps and circumstantial descriptions and to draw perfectly the views and from, for which purpose a draughtsman is to go along with you.

Be particularly careful about longitude and latitude, in what direction and at what distances all coasts, islands, capes, points, bays and rivers are situated from one and the other, and what are the marks by which they may be known, as mountains, hills, trees, or buildings to be seen thereupon.

Take a thorough survey of the depth of the water near the shore and of the sunken rocks, the rapid current of the rivers at the points, how and by what marks they are to be avoided, and if the bottom is hard, soft, sharp, flat, sloping, or steep, and if they may be approached or not, by the soundings; upon what marks the best anchoring places in harbours and bays are to be found, how the inlets and rivers are to be entered, what winds usually blow in the different parts; the course of the streams, whether ebb and flood are regulated by the moon or wind; what alterations of monsoon, rains or dry weather you experience; and observed farther diligently to remark and note down (which is the duty of all able pilots) whatever may be of service in future voyages to the discovered countries.

The time of the year will doubtless not permit, by the shortening of the days, to lose any time, but carefully and diligently to proceed; for the above reason it is consequence to discover as much and in as short a time as possible.

Nevertheless to discover in a proper manner the coasts of the east, and south land, it will be necessary in good time now and then to anchor in proper places, always looking for and choosing such bays and harbours as with the least danger may be entered and left, where you may lie in safety, and which by accidental winds or for other reasons you may soon quit.

But be particularly careful, circumspect and prudent in landing with small craft, because (as above-mentioned) at several times New Guinea has been found to be inhabited by cruel wild savages and, as it is uncertain what sort of people the inhabitants of the south lands are, it may rather be presumed that they are also wild and barbarous savages than a civilised people, for which reason you ought always to be upon your guard and well armed; because in all countries of the globe experience has taught us no savages are to be trusted, by reason they always suppose people who appear so unexpectedly and strangely to them are only come to invade their country; all which is proved in the discovery of America and the Indies, by the surprise and murdering many careless and unwary discoverers, many times to the ruin of their voyages.

When you meet and converse with any of these savages behave well and friendly to them; do not take notice of little affronts or thefts which they practice upon you, because resentment might create disgust; but try by all means to engage their affection to you, the better to learn from them the state of their country, particularly if any thing for the service of the company may be done there.

You are also to inquire as much as time will permit into the productions of their country, the fruits and animals, the buildings, the shape and faces of the people, their clothing, arms, morals, manners, food, trade, religion, government, war, and everything worthy of remark; particularly whether they are peaceable or malicious.

You are to show the samples of the goods which you carry along with you, to inquire what materials and goods they possess, and what is wanted of ours; all which you are closely to observe, well to annotate, and correctly to describe; for which reason you are to keep a very circumstantial journal wherein all particulars may be perfectly inserted, by which upon your return you may give a satisfactory report to us.

If any country be discovered peopled by a civilised nation (as apparently will not be the case) you may depend more upon them than upon the wild savages; try to converse with their governors and subjects, and to establish an acquaintance; inform them you come there to trade, show them the goods in proper order; for this purpose laden on board both the yachts and the tender, amounting to the sum of 2809 guilders, 17 stivers, and three penningen, of all which the junior merchants have to keep books in proper order, by which they (when called upon) may be enabled to give a satisfactory account.

Showing the samples and goods, you and the junior merchants are carefully to remark what good the strange nations most esteem and to which they are most inclined; likewise inquire what merchants and goods they possess, particularly after gold and silver, and whether these metals are held in great esteem; to keep them ignorant of the precious value seem not greedily after it; if they offer to barter for your goods seem not to convert these minerals, but show them copper, tutenag*, pewter and lead, as if these were of more value to us. If you find them inclined to trade keep the goods which they seem most greedy after at so high a value that none may be sold nor bartered without great profit, likewise take nothing but what you are convinced will turn out profitable to the Company, which in trading you will learn. It will be particularly necessary to bring samples of the most rare things to be found there, and of all the rest exact account, to see what return from thence can be made, and for the future may be serviceable.

* Zinc.

You are prudently to prevent all insolences and maltreatment of the ship's crew against the discovered nations, and to take care by no means to insult them in their houses, gardens, ships, possessions, nor women, etc. Likewise not to carry away any inhabitant against their will, but if a few voluntarily should be inclined to go along with you then you are permitted to bring them to this place.

We have here expressed in general our intentions respecting a voyage you are to undertake but, as upon all that may occur no precise orders can be given, we leave the rest to your zeal, vigilance and good conduct, likewise to the council's prudent dispositions, in a full hope and confidence you will in this expedition be so vigilant as to succeed to the service of the Company, when we will not be backward to recompense your endeavours as you may merit; for if in this voyage are discovered any countries, islands or passages profitable to the Company we promise you by this to reward the conductors and well-behaving ships' crew with such premiums as we shall find their good service to have merited, upon which you all may depend. Likewise you are to fix a competent premium to those who first shall perceive an unknown country, island, shoal, rock, or dangerous foul ground, in order to avoid as much as possible all misfortunes.

To prevent any other European nation from reaping (perhaps) the fruits of our labour and expenses in these discoveries you are everywhere to take possession, in the name and by the orders of the Dutch East India Company, of the countries and islands you may arrive at not inhabited by savages; to put up some signs, for instance, plant trees, sow some fruit trees, erect a stone or post, and to cut or carve in them the arms of the Netherlands or of the Company, and in what year and at what time such a land was discovered and taken in possession, declaring further in intention by the first opportunity to send people thither from hence, and to establish a colony to secure the property near to us.

But if it happens (which is not unlikely) that you discover some countries or islands that may have a polished government you are to endeavour with its chiefs or governors (in the name as above) to make contract upon the most advantageous terms you possibly can obtain, including a resignation (if they are inclined to do such) or permission to frequent the place exclusive of all other nations; or other advantages for the Company; all which you must note down circumstantially in your journals, expressing the names and qualities of those whom you shall have treated, to serve the Company when it may be wanted.

In order this dangerous voyage, according to these instructions and our good intentions, may be well regulated and finished, good order kept among the crew, right and justice administered conformable to the general articles; and everything (which upon so dangerous and long a voyage may happen to be required) be done and transacted to the greatest service of the Company; we appoint by this the Honourable Abel Jansz Tasman commodore of the three yachts and the crew which sail with them; we authorise him to hoist the pendant on board the yacht Limmen, to assemble the council, and whereof he is to be constantly president: command in consequence the officers, soldiers and sailors (nobody excepted) appointed upon the yachts Limmen, De Zeemeuw, and De Brak, to acknowledge and obey him as their chief and commander; to support him by good advice and assiduity, to the forwarding of the voyage and the ordered discovery of the unknown countries, as is the duty of vigilant and faithful servants, in such a manner as, upon return, everyone may be able to answer.

The council of the three yachts shall consist of the following persons:--

The commodore Abel Jansz Tasman Constantly President
The skipper chief pilot Francois Jacobs, of the Limmen
The skipper Dirk Cornelisz Haan of the Zeemeuw
Supercargo Isaac Gissmans
The skipper Jasper Jansz Koops of the Brak.
Cryn Henderiskz, First mate of the Limmen
Carsten Jurjansz* First mate of the Zeemeuw
Cornelis Robol First mate of the Brak
The junior merchant Anthony Blauw as councillor or secretary

By this council shall all occurring business towards forwarding the voyage, fulfilling our orders, and administering of justice, be concluded upon and transacted: if it so happen there is an equal number of votes the commodore is to have two votes; but in cases of navigation and discovery of countries the second mates shall also assist with advising votes, all which the commodore shall collect, and determine by the majority of the concluding votes, taking care to have all resolutions instantly truly registered and strictly complied with the service of the Company.

In the council of each particular yacht the junior merchant or bookkeeper and high boatswains shall be called as directed in the orders of our masters.

If the commodore Tasman (which God forbid) should decease such a person shall succeed him as in our sealed act is nominated, which in every respect conformable to this instruction in manner his predecessor commanded, and (as is right) he shall be obeyed.

* Jurjansz signifies George's son, as Jansz signifies John's son; Cornelisz, Cornelius's son, etc.

The yachts are manned with 111 persons, and amongst them one officer and 16 soldiers. Namely:

In the Limmen: 45 sailors, 11 soldiers; in all 56 persons.
In the Zeemeuw: 35 sailors, 6 soldiers; in all 41 persons.
In the Brak: 14 sailors, 0 soldiers; in all 14 persons.
94 sailors, 17 soldiers: total 111 persons.

All well provided with all necessary ammunition, tools, and utensils, and for eight months plentifully victualled. Manage everything well and orderly, take notice you see the ordinary portion of two meat and two pork days, and a quarter of vinegar, a half quarter of sweet oil per week, and a half quarter of arrack per day regularly distributed. Each yacht carries a leaguer and 120 quarts of strong arrack (the Brak is provided from the Zeemeuw) which must be carefully distributed in the cold climate for the health of the people. Notwithstanding you are plentifully stocked with waterbuts manage particularly fresh water and fuel to prevent wanting it; as you would then be obliged to search after it, to the retarding of your voyage, or return without success, to your shame and the great detriment of the Company, which has been at great expense in equipping these yachts; and for these reasons, by industry and prudence, ought to be prevented from suffering.

We give then no further instruction and leave to your and the council's good conduct and advice what you will have more to do upon this voyage; only recommending seriously in all emergencies to use such prudence as may keep the Company's valuable ships and people out of all dangers as much as can be done. For the better to answer this purpose we do not approve the commodore much to leave shipboard, but to stay in the yacht, unless (with advice of the council) the Company's service may require the contrary in order to avoid the object being neglected by any unforeseen misfortune in this important voyage.

To conclude this instruction we wish you the protection and blessings of Omnipotence, which we pray to inspire you with manly courage for the intended discoveries, and after finishing to return in safety, to the expanding of His glory, reputation to the mother country, the service of the Company, our contentment, and to your own everlasting honour.

Out of the castle, Batavia, this 29th day of January, 1644, signed,


Southland sealed-up Commission for the Successor of the Commodore Abel Jansz Tasman, in case of his Decease.

In consideration of the uncertainty of life in the human race, and the disorders which many times arise from the loss of those in command, and to prevent as much as possible all evil, we have found good to order, as we do by this: that if the skipper, commodore Abel Jansz Tasman, upon this voyage of discovery should decease (which God forbid) the skipper of the yacht the Zeemeuw, Dirk Cornelisz Haan, shall succeed in his place, shall be acknowledged and obeyed as chief, and receive and follow this our instruction given to Tasman as given to himself.

In this case, for the service of the Company, is this our meaning and desire.

Out of the castle, Batavia, day and date as above.