History of West Australia/Chapter 1
THE DISCOVERY OF AUSTRALIA
CLASSIC WRITERS AND ANCIENT MAPS—DE GONNEVILLE—MAGELLAN—PORTUGUESE MAPS—DE QUIRROS AND DE TORRES—THE DUYFKEN—DIRK HARTOG—THE ABROLHOS—THE MAURITIUS—VAN EDEL—THE LEEUWIN—THE DE HARING AND THE HAREWIND—JAN CARSTENS—PIETER NUYTS—DE WITT—PELSART—POOLE AND PIETERSEN—TASMAN AND THE DE VERGULDE DRAECK—A FICTITIOUS WORK ON AUSTRALIA.
THE world was old before Australia was wrested by navigators from her primal gloom and obscurity. Throughout the long roll of centuries of ancient greatness the oceans were unexplored. Their refluent, rippling, glassy vastnesses were even more impenetrable than the densest forest thicket. The Christian era was well advanced when men were bold enough to seek to fathom their mysteries. The ancients believed their little world contained the whole habitable globe. A little knowledge of the laws of the universe made them fear bottomless precipices which bounded the earth, and, therefore, they cared not to go out to the rising sun and over to the twilight. A few were curious, and their prophetic verse, picturing great distant continents, we still possess.
Until the end of the fifteenth century, maritime adventure was confined to the seas between and round the known parts of the continents, Great Britain and the islands south of Japan and China. In previous centuries travellers had gone through Asia to India and China, and learnt that Timor and the Molacca Islands, north-west of Australia, were centres of Eastern trade. In their dahows and junks the Easteners constantly visited these islands, and gained from them what wealth they could. Marco Polo, a famous Venetian traveller of the thirteenth century, had many remarkable adventures in China, Japan, Sumatra, Java, and Ceylon, and his accounts of new races astonished beyond measure those who read them. Nothing was known of an ocean route to these beautiful regions.
But sailors began to look with curiosity, mixed with superstition, to the horizon of the Atlantic, and some on the Canary Islands had said that they could dimly see a great land stretched before them.
In 1487 a few ships beat down the west coast of Africa and discovered the Cape of Good Hope. But no one voyaged far on the pathless Atlantic until Columbus had grown to man's estate. On an eternally memorable day he set out to find a westerly route to the Molaccas and Java. His companions, courageous enough at the outset, were soon stricken with awesome fear, but the stout-hearted navigator—the father of all oceanic navigators—persisted, and finally reached America. A new and greater era for humanity then began. The spacious seal of the Atlantic was broken; mariners went out in every direction and for many years every decade heralded new discoveries, which begot new sensations and imaginings to the privileged dominant races of men.
The success of Columbus, and the discoveries of gold in America by Hernando Cortes, so excited European imagination that mariners prepared to go out in every direction in search of new countries which would quickly make them rich. Soon after Columbus, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch, and English navigators coasted down Africa, and eagerly scanned the horizon for some magic land. They groped their way over the interminable liquid expanse, and on each voyage they studied the oceans and acquired more knowledge of local laws of winds and currents. Finally they boldly sailed into the unknown. These men possessed many heroic virtues but their sterling bravery and energy, amid apparently insuperable obstacles, require no comment. Their boats were quite unfit for such long voyages, and their knowledge of ocean sailing was comparatively limited. Their ingenuity and resource were shown in their forcing a path in the "dark-heaving, boundless, endless" oceans. They were heroes among men.
Gradually their thoughts and energies were drawn towards a southern continent, which now promises to affect the destinies of mankind to an incalculable degree. That mystic land was known by turns as the Great South Land, Magellanica, Great Java, Terra Australis Incognito, and New Holland. By a peculiar coincidence classic poets and writers, in moments of inspiration, foreshadowed the existence of such a country, and even pretended to give information concerning it. Mr. R. H. Major, F.S.A., appropriately prefaces his work, Early Voyages to Terra Australis, with the lines—
"Austrinus pars est liabitabilis oris,
Sub pedibusque jacet nostris"—
taken from the Astronomicon of Manilius, probably published in the time of Tiberius. Aristotle, Aratus, Strabo, and Geminus opined that there were segments of land below the torrid zone as large as those above it but these and other references by early writers were evidently prophecies, and nothing more. More practical, however, are maps of the eighth, tenth, thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, which refer to an "opposite earth." Every effort to discover MS. bearing on these has failed. Marco Polo advanced Chinese claims to the discovery of Australia. Their trade with the East India Islands had been established centuries earlier than the voyages of the Old World navigators, and they, with some justification, held that during their voyages they had seen a Great South Land. In comparatively recent times an antique wooden globe was found which bears the inscription that the Terra Australis was discovered in 1499. This curious relic of other days is preserved in the Geographical Department of the Paris National Library. Mr. Henry Harris, author of The Discovery of North America believes it to date from 1535. Notwithstanding classic writers, geographers, hydrographers, and Chinese, the wall of the unknown surrounds Australia as securely as ever, and the discovery was tedious and took centuries to consummate.
After Columbus, mere conjecture, however, was displaced by something more solid. Early in the sixteenth century, Portuguese and other navigators discovered the ocean route to the East Indies by way of the Cape of Good Hope. Trade was established, and fleets were constantly sailing to and from these centres. There is every probability that during some of the voyages many boats had been carried close to the west coast of Australia. When more knowledge of prevailing winds was obtained the outward bound ships made a latitude south of the Cape of Good Hope. They would then take advantage of the prevailing west winds of the Great Southern Ocean. Naturally holding to these as long as possible, they would go east as far as the Islands of St. Paul and Amsterdam, and then make a north-easterly course to Java, Timor, and the Malaccas. The trade or monsoonal winds would at certain seasons of the year undoubtedly bring them close to the Australian coast.
A Frenchman—Binot Paulmier de Gonneville, a native of Honfleur—claims to have made the earliest discovery. In June, 1503, eleven years after the first voyage of Columbus, De Gonneville left France on a voyage to the South Seas. Off the Cape of Good Hope he said he met with such severe storms that he was carried, in 1503-4, to a great land which he named Southern India. After a time he returned to France, taking with him a native prince. The claim of De Gonneville is not recognised, for the land he described was probably Madagascar. Magalhaens, better known as Magellan, early in the sixteenth century endeavoured to secure the support of his countrymen (the Portuguese) in fitting out an expedition to voyage round the world, during which he expected to discover many new lands and untold wealth and glory for Portugal. They paid little attention to his representations, and he thereupon went to Spain, where he made similar efforts. Finally, after the Portuguese did their utmost to prevent his voyage under the Spaniards, he sailed away in charge of a small Spanish fleet.
In 1520 he doubled Cape Horn, and voyaged round the world. When approaching the East Indies he is reported to have sighted a southern continent, which maps in existence show was named Magellanica. This claim is a little more reasonable than that of De Gonneville. Considering the evidence of six Portuguese maps of the sixteenth century, there is every reason to suppose that the gloom surrounding Australia was pierced between the years 1512 and 1542. These maps exhibit a large coastline south and south-east of Java, divided from it by a narrow strait, to which the name Great Java is attached. The prevailing winds, and the consequent easier course, had almost certainly carried the Portuguese within sight of Australia. There are many reasons why they did not then claim the honour of so important a discovery. The Portuguese, although unable to make use of their discoveries, owing to their large trade with the East Indies, were anxious that lands of such magnitude and importance should not be acquired by any other nation. Humboldt wrote that kings of Portugal even forbad, on pain of death, the exportation of marine charts showing the course to Calicut in India. All charts and books were therefore concealed. A similar accusation was subsequently made against the Dutch East India Company by the English ambassador, Sir William Temple, who contended that when the Dutch were in the ascendancy the demands of their trade among the islands prevented their opening up relations with this large continent. Dutch writers of the present century seek to prove the fallacy of Temple's allegations.
That Australia was known to the Portuguese in the sixteenth century is evident; and Mr. Major, referring to the six maps, writes:—
"Our surmises, therefore, lead us to regard it as highly probable that Australia was discovered by the Portuguese between the years 1511 and 1529, and almost to a demonstrable certainty that is was discovered before the year 1542."
A further conclusive proof that it was known prior to authenticated discoveries is found in an article entitled "Terra Australis," published in 1598, in Cornelius Wytflict's Descriptionis Ptoleimaicæ Augmentum, Louvain. One passage runs—
"The Australis Terra is the must southern of all lands, and is separated from New Guinea by a narrow strait. Its shores are hitherto but little known, since after one voyage and another that route has been deserted, and seldom is the country visited except when sailors are driven there by storms. The Australis Terra begins at two or three degrees from Equator, and is maintained by some to be of so great an extent that if it were thoroughly explored it would be regarded as a fifth part of world."
The sixteenth century was allowed to wane and die without any navigator being known to specially visit Australia. It is quite possible that vessels had been wrecked during storms on her rocky boundaries, but if so, the passengers with the ships were overwhelmed by the ocean waves. It was, however, early in the seventeenth century that the first detailed discovery was made. The natives of the East Indies had meanwhile become familiar with Portuguese, Dutch, and Spaniards alike, but the pristine silence of southern oceans was often rudely broken by the cries of conflicting ships' companies. The Spaniards and the Portuguese were in deadly enmity and slaughtered each other with impunity. Nor was that all. For much more than a century the East Indies supplied a hunting ground for bloodthirsty Europeans, who constantly preyed upon the weaker and ignorant natives. In their greed for wealth, and in their brute love for slaughter, they thought nothing of devastating towns and murdering the inhabitants. Privateers and buccaneers roved the southern seas, and Englishmen were not backward in the deadly game then carried on. But while this was proceeding, navigators of the same noble caste as Columbus were making their useful voyages, and taking back to Europe astounding news of divers rich great countries. Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French, and English all deserve honour for their services to navigation in the Southern Hemisphere, and especially, so far as Australia is concerned, the Dutch and English. It is remarkable that more wrecks did not occur while they were prosecuting their adventurous search, for knowing nothing of the Australian coast, nor of the gales which periodically blow so strongly, there was the possibility of their at any moment sinking to the bottom of the ocean. So far away from their homes, and trusting their lives to comparatively fragile vessels they had much to chance. But they were cautious men, possessing qualities which fitted them for almost any position a community can offer; and those of their journals which are extant prove that they possessed no mediocre literary ability. And with all their caution they were remarkably courageous, and permeated with an intense love of adventure.
To Pedro Fernandez De Quiros Australia owes much of the honour for her first becoming known with certainty to Europeans. De Quiros was either a native of Portugal or Spain, but in the employ of the latter country. In 1595 he sailed as chief pilot under Alvaro de Mendana from Peru on a voyage of discovery, when Mendana found the Marquesas and Queen Charlotte’s Islands. At the Island of Santa Cruz, Mendana failed in an attempt to establish a Spanish colony, and there he died. De Quiros returned to Spain and strenuously advocated the fitting out of a well equipped expedition for the scanning of the oceans, and also to determine the existence of the Great South Land. The Spanish monarch Philip III., after much deliberation, caused two well armed vessels and a corvette to be placed under his charge. On the 21 December, 1605, De Quiros left Callao, with Luis Vaez de Torres in command of the second ship—the Almarante. This little fleet was probably the strongest and best armed which had up to this time entered southern oceans. Their first object was to colonise Santa Cruz Island, thence to seek Australia. But De Quiros was not destined to ever sight this continent. Among others, he discovered one of the islands of the New Hebrides group, and thinking he was on the coast of the unknown continent, named it Australia del Espirito Santo. Then, either by reason of storms or difficulty with his ship's company, he was separated from the consort vessels, and we next hear of him in October, 1606, when he reached Mexico. He advised the Spanish monarch to lose no opportunity to explore these unknown regions, which advice was not followed, and he died at Panama in 1616. But he had done his good work in securing the discovery, and left "a name which for merit, though not for success, was second only to that of Columbus." Alexander Dalrymple, a contemporary of Captain Cook, wrote that "the discovery of the southern continent, whenever and by whomsoever it may be completely effected, is in justice due to this immortal name."
Torres, left alone, did not desire that his adventures should end with the separation from De Quiros, and he called his men together and, evidently for form's sake, asked them what their wishes were—to extend their voyage of discovery, or return immediately whence they came. Most of them preferred the latter course, but De Torres pushed on and sailed south of New Guinea, and about August, 1606, sighted land on the other side, which he believed an island. Different authorities have decided that this land was Cape York and the country in juxtaposition to it in Northern Australia. Thus, without knowing it, De Torres saw the Australian continent and the water he sailed through south of New Guinea is known to this day as Torres Straits.
Spain did not secure such benefits from her discoveries in the south as might have been expected. She was so heavily engaged in the Atlantic, and possessed such numerous and strong enemies, that there was a gradual decadence of her naval enterprise. The Dutch, whom she had so long persecuted, determined to deprive her, if possible, of her transatlantic commerce. They set about doing this in the most practical ways, and the better classes entered eagerly into the national sentiment. Geography and hydrography were earnestly studied, and schools of instruction were opened. The natural result of such well directed preparation is the grand name which Dutch navigators have attained in the Southern, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. In 1602 the Dutch East India Company was established as a part of the great scheme, and under the auspices of this company the first authenticated discovery of Australia was made and many subsequent and important voyages were undertaken.Their headquarters in the East India Islands were mainly at Batavia. It is needless to say that the Dutch secured much wealth from their trade. One of their vessels, the yacht Duyfhen (the Dove), by order of the Governor, left Bantam, or Batavia, on November 18, 1605, to explore New Guinea. After some sailing, a long coast-line was made, which was reckoned as that of New Guinea, but in reality was the eastern portion of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The date is given as about the month of March, 1606. The navigator, whose name does not appear on the records, prepared a map of his voyage, in which it is seen that he coasted down to Cape Keer-Weer, or "Turn Again." He described the country as mostly desert, inhabited by "wild, cruel, black savages," who murdered members of the crew. Efforts were made to land for water, but were futile. The first authenticated discovery of Australia was at last made; but the country seen, and the report given of the natives, was not likely to encourage the opening up of trade relations.
Several vessels visited the Australian coast within the next twenty years. In the years 1616, 1618, 1619, and 1622, ships outward bound from Holland discovered different parts of the Western Australian coastline, but through want of reliable data little information can be given concerning their movements. The voyage of Dirk Hartog is the most important, and a plain tin plate romantically tells the story of his sighting a part of Terra Australis. In 1616, Hartog, who came from Amsterdam, and commanded the ship Endraght (the Concord), 360 tons burthen, discovered Dirk Hartog Island and Roads at the entrance to a capacious sound, which Dampier named Sharks Bay. Much of the mainland from Sharks Bay to Exmouth Gulf was known in old charts, until recent times, as Endraght's Land, and showed the portion of the coast visited by Hartog in the Endraght. Another island opposite Dirk Hartog Island he named Doore Island, after his pilot. On the north end of the island bearing his own name he left the historical tin plate, which was destined to remain there, unseen, amid many storms for nearly a century as a memorial of his visit. The plate was nailed to a post, and bore the inscription which, translated, reads
"On the 25th of October, 1616, arrived here the ship Endraght, of Amsterdam: the first merchant, Gillis Mibais Van Luyck; captain, Dirk Hartog, of Amsterdam. The 27th ditto set sail for Bantam. Under merchant, Jan Stoyn; upper steersman, Pieter Dockes, from Bil. Aº 1616."
Mutely retaining its message, the plate was seen in 1697 by Wilhelm Van Vlaming, captain of the Geelvink, who took it to Batavia, replacing it by another, inscribed:—
"On the 4th of February, 1697, arrived here the ship Geelvink, of Amsterdam: captain, Commandant Wilhelm Van Vlaming, of Vlielandt; assistant, Jan Van Bremen, of Copenhagen; first pilot, Michael Bloem Van Estight, of Bremen; the hooker, the Nyptough: captain, Gerrit Collaert, of Amsterdam; assistant, Theodorus Heermans, of the same place; first pilot, Gerrit Gerritz, of Bremen; then the galliot Weseltje: commander, Cornelis Van Vlaming, of Vlielandt; pilot, Coert Gerritz, of Bremen. Sailed from here with our fleet on the 12th to explore the South Land, and afterwards bound for Batavia."
The history of these remarkable inscriptions does not end here, for still a century later, during the French voyage of discovery made by Commander Baudin in the corvettes Geographe and Naturaliste, Van Vlaming’s plate was observed. In July, 1801, Captain Hamelin, of the Naturaliste, in order to signal the Geographe, from which he had been separated, sent three men to Dirk Hartog Island. The boatswain brought back with him the plate of tin, which he found on the north point of the island, and which was then named the Cape of the Inscription. He narrated that the antique relic was half covered with sand, and lay near an oaken post to which it was probably originally nailed. Nature had so long spared it that, rather than take away so valuable a memento, Captain Hamelin copied the inscription, and reverently caused the plate to be nailed to a new and stronger post. He also placed on the north-east of the island a plate inscribed with the name of his ship and the date of his arrival. The old plate, which had so long withstood its enemy—decay—was there but a few years longer. In 1822 King was unable to find it, and afterwards learned that Captain de Freycinet, in 1818, removed it from its long resting-place, and presented it to the Museum of the Institute of Paris. Hartog Island and the Abrolhos Islands are the most historical features of the whole Australian coast.
There is some doubt as to the date of the original discovery of the Abrolhos group. In Portuguese maps of the sixteenth century, islands are shown off the west coast, and in one the name Abrolhos is attached to them. Don Jorge de Meneses is said to have discovered them in 1527, and there is no doubt as to their being known to the Portuguese. The name itself, "Abrolhos," is a Portuguese term or contraction meaning "open your eyes," or "keep your eyes open," and no more appropriate appellation could have been chosen, as more than one navigator has found to his cost. When the Dutch first discovered the Abrolhos they allowed the Portuguese name to remain. Some authorities contend that the Dutch sighted the group in 1597, and placed them in the chart as Frederick Houtman's Abrolhos. In 1595 Houtman is said to have accompanied a Dutch fleet to the East Indies as commercial chief, but it is not proved that he even came within hail of the Australian coast. He is also described as a well-known navigator of that period, and after suffering imprisonment under the Inquisition, offered to lead an expedition to the East Indies. It was then that he is reported to have discovered the Abrolhos. Flinders gives the discovery as much later, and states that Edel, or some ship of his squadron, probably observed the islets in 1619 while off the coast of Edels Land, on the mainland. Mr. Major also prefers to place the date as about 1619, but does not think Houtman visited them. Houtman's Abrolhos form a cluster of rocky islets round which is a long shoal of sunken rock. The insidious coral are here at work, and in stormy weather mariners have to be exceedingly careful in approaching too close to them. Some of the islands are made the homes of Australian sea-fowl, and their nests and eggs are without number, and the birds themselves, when by any means startled and on the wing, provide an almost impenetrable shield from the sun's rays. These islands are about 45 miles west-north-west of Champion Bay.
The outward-bound Dutch vessel Mauritius seems to have made discoveries on the west coast in July, 1618, more particularly Wilhelms River, while the navigator Jean Van Edel, in July, 1619, discovered that part of Western Australia which was known on all old maps as Edels Land. The coastal country he visited extended on one chart from 29° northward to 26½° to the land of Endracht, and in another to 32° 20', or from Sharks Bay south-wards to near Cape Leschenault. Then, in 1622, the navigator of the ship Leeuwin (the Lioness) discovered the land which obtained its name from the ship, running from Cape Leeuwin to near Swan River. In September of the same year two vessels, the De Haring and the Harewind, were sent by the Dutch on a voyage of discovery to Australia, and to search for a missing vessel, but, meeting the returning Mauritius, put back to the East Indies. Following these ships were several others in subsequent years, but their voyages present little of general interest to Australian navigation, and, indeed, the records of them are meagre. The Dutch Governor despatched Jan Carstens in the yachts Pera and Arnhem from Amboina, in January, 1623. At New Guinea Carstens and eight of the Arnhem's crew were murdered by natives, but, notwithstanding, the second in command persisted in prosecuting the voyage, and found Arnhem Land—the Northern Territory of South Australia. The ships then became separated. The Arnhem went back to Amboina, but the Pera coasted down the Gulf of Carpentaria to Cape Keer-Weer and Staten River. The mariners were not impressed with what they saw, and described the water as shallow, the coast barren, and the natives poor, cruel, and brutal.
The voyage of the Gulde Zeepard (Golden Sea Horse) in 1627 was more important so far as Western Australia is concerned. In that year the Gulde Zeepard sailed from the fatherland and accidentally discovered the south coast of Terra Australis, near Cape Leeuwin. The journal was probably lost, but other sources state that the navigators examined the coast for about 1000 miles to the eastward, as far as the islands of St. Francis and St. Peter's, or Nuyts Archipelago, in the Great Australian Bight. It is generally supposed that Pieter Nuyts either commanded the Gulde Zeepard or was chief merchant on board, for all that coastal country thenceforward was known on charts and maps as Nuyts Land. In 1628 the Vianen, a Dutch ship, charted 200 miles of the coast, but, as with the Gulde Zeepard, the captain’s name is not authenticated. From the evidence of charts it was probably De Witt, as the country was named De Witt Land. This lies between Nickol Bay and Cape Londonderry, and according to reports of the voyage, nothing was observed but "a foul and barren shore, green fields, and very wild, black, barbarous inhabitants."
Next comes the adventurous voyage of Captain Pelsart, and for the first time, so far as history can tell, we read of tales of bloodshed, and the presence of conflicting passions—of murder, envy, vanity, and lust—on Australian coasts. It is one of those grim sea stories of wreck and mutiny and murder and suffering so common two hundred years ago. When, in 1628, General Carpenter returned to the fatherland from the East Indies with several vessels heavily laden with merchandise, the delighted Dutch equipped in the same year eleven vessels to trade further with the East Indies. Among them was the Batavia, in charge of Captain Pelsart, a man of courage, with a strong sense of duty. On the 28th October, 1628, the eleven vessels sailed from Texel, and rounded the Cape of Good Hope in safety. But on the 4th June, 1629, a severe storm separated the Batavia from the fleet. What became of the other ten vessels is not related, but the stress of the storm carried the Batavia near to the Australian coast, and finally she struck on the sunken rocks of Houtman's Abrolhos. It was night, a bright moonlight night, and Captain Pelsart was sick in his cabin. The vessel at the time had all sails set, and was steering a north-east by north course, and the sea so glistened in the moonlight that the pilot noticed not the white froth which covered it as far as the eye could reach. The shock of the impact roused the captain, who rushed on deck, and observing the foam ordered the cannon to be thrown overboard and dropped the anchor. Meanwhile, a storm of wind and rain arose and their position became all the more trying. The vessel continued striking, and Pelsart had the mainmast cut away, but the only effect from this was an increase in the shock. In the dim light three islands, two very small, were described about three leagues away, and bare rocks nearer by. The master was sent to examine these islands, and about nine in the morning returned and reported a rocky coast so full of shoals that it would be difficult to land. All this while the women and children of the company disturbed the men by their cries of fear, and a shallop and skiff put off carrying them and the sick to one of the islands. At ten in the morning the ship began to break up, and the crew used every effort to get the provisions on deck, but hardly troubled to remove the fresh water, thinking there would be plenty on land. The sailors broached the wine to such an extent that the situation of the company was rendered more perilous by their "brutal behaviour," Because of this and a strong gale only three trips were made to the islands that day, and on the following days storms and restless seas made it difficult and almost impossible to get to and from the fast breaking vessel. On the first day 180 persons, 20 barrels of bread, and some small casks of water were landed, but, notwithstanding their distressful condition, the company on hand wasted the provisions. Valuable merchandise and treasure were landed on the following day, and eventually the captain and master who endeavoured to return from the land were beaten back by heavy seas. The carpenter thereupon threw himself into the water from the ship and swam to Pelsart, informing him that those on board were in imminent danger, but the weather becoming still more turgid the captain was powerless, "leaving, with the utmost grief, his lieutenant and 70 men on the very point of perishing on board the vessel." Those on land now began to murmur among themselves, for they had found no water and were in great need of it. They complained to Pelsart that the officers did not go in search of water, and he, to pacify them, consented to go himself. There were 40 people on one island and 180 on another, and after some anxiety about leaving his people Captain Pelsart launched a boat and with members of his crew set out on his search, determining to return as soon as possible. He visited little islands nearby and found fresh water in holes of rocks, but the storm had dashed the sea into them and rendered them unfit for use. Then on the 9th June he steered for the mainland, but could not step on shore because of the rough coast and raging storm. A deck was made for the boat, and a northerly course was eventually struck. Many efforts were made to land but without success. The steep shore-line presented a formidable barrier to their near approach, "which gave them the more pain because within land the country appeared very fruitful and pleasant." A current carried them further north than they desired, and day by day they sought to gain the shore. On the 14th they sailed slowly near the coast, until observing much smoke in the distance, they rowed quickly towards it, hoping to find men and water. When near at hand the steep and rocky coast, over which the sea furiously broke, prevented their landing but, undaunted, six men threw themselves into the sea, and amid difficulties and dangers enough, reached the shore. They hunted high and low all day long for water, but though reduced to serious straits, they found none. Presently they observed four natives creeping towards them on hands and feet, but on the approach of the sailors they rose and fled in a great fright. Hopeless of obtaining water there the men swam out to the boat, which they reached much bruised by blows from the rocks and waves. Going still further north, on the next day they discovered a cape with two chains of rocks jutting from it some distance into the sea. Between these they found a passage at noon, and succeeded in landing. They ran a little inland and eagerly dug wells, but when they came to the water they found it brackish. Nearly famished, they searched among the rocks, and in the clefts of some they at last obtained the precious liquid, and glad were they, "for they were dying of thirst." They collected about twenty gallons that evening, and on the morning of the 16th landed again for more, but were disappointed. The barren appearance of the country showed that it was probably useless to go inland, for it was without vegetation, sandy, and level. Ant-hills were observed so large as to resemble native huts, and there was such a prodigious number of flies that they were put to much exertion to protect themselves. They came upon ashes and the remains of crayfish, which proved that natives had but recently been there. Eventually eight blacks carrying spears drew near to them, but when within musket-shot, a sailor moved forward and they incontinently fled. They found no water. Greatly oppressed by his own danger and that of his shipwrecked people, Pelsart weighed anchor and followed the coast in hopes of discovering a river which charts told him was somewhere near. Then, after being carried 400 miles from the Abrolhos, and vainly trying to land, he determined to make all speed to Batavia, to solicit the Governor there for assistance for his people. It was a bold stroke, but the hardihood of the mariner was equal to the labour, and at mid-day on the 27th of June Java was sighted. There they obtained water, being again nearly famished, and finally reached Batavia, where the frigate Sardam was placed under Pelsart's charge, and he sailed off to rescue his fellow sufferers.
But the virgin soil of the Abrolhos was already stained by the life-blood of men, women, and children. Some time after the departure of Pelsart, one of the company discovered good drinking water. Two pools were observed to rise and fall with the tide, and, naturally thinking they must contain salt water, no one tasted until one man sipping was overjoyed to find it good. Thus, with the quantity of provisions taken from the vessel, they were able to sustain life for a considerable time. On the voyage out the supercargo, Jerome Cornelis, an apothecary of Harlem, conspired with the pilot and others to obtain possession of the ship for piratic purposes—a dangerous but often remunerative trade in those days. But no fitting opportunity arose until the departure of Pelsart revived the hopes of Cornelis. He was among those left on the vessel, and, when after some days he succeeded in landing on one of the islands, as supercargo he took command of the company. The conspiracy soon ripened, and a compact was signed by the traitors. Their project was to rehabilitate the Batavia, and go roving the seas, preying upon all the prizes that came in their way, or failing that, to surprise Pelsart on his presumptive arrival with another ship. But first, they determined to murder all those who were not of their party. The company occupied three islands, and the largest number were on that of Cornelis. Weybehays, a member of the company, was at this time on an island where he had been sent in search of water, which he discovered as already related. Cornelis with his men murdered between thirty and forty of those on his own island, which was thereupon named the "Graveyard of Batavia." Some of the men, however, escaped on rafts, constructed from the debris of the wreck, and went over to Weybehays, who now had forty-five men under him. This body was the danger to Cornelis, who, bent on their destruction, decided to first assassinate the women, children, and sick, and then cross and kill them. All the weak, defenceless people were cold bloodedly put to death except seven children and six women. Cornelis took a married woman for his own use, presented the minister's daughter to his chief favourite, and the remainder were held for public use. After this the chests of rich merchandise landed from the Batavia were opened, and the most valuable stuffs were made into clothes. Cornelis and his body-guard gaudily attired themselves in scarlet, embroidered with gold and silver. The ringleader, who had drawn up a set of regulations, now sent twenty-two armed men to slay Weybehays and his men, but the latter was prepared, and seeing them approach repulsed them, though practically unarmed. Still confident of the success of his plans, Cornelis thereupon placed himself at the head of thirty-seven men, but Weybehay's men, armed with staves, having nails driven in at their ends, again beat them off. Cornelis after reflection sought to murder these redoubtable men by strategy, and, under a truce of peace, secretly offered by letter high terms to some of Weybehays’ companions. These letters they showed to their chief, and on the next occasion that Cornelis came to the island, ostensibly to settle the treaty, he was attacked, taken prisoner, and some of his men were killed. The remainder kept to their island.
At this stage the Sardam with Pelsart on board, sighted the Abrolhos, and the anxious captain was highly pleased when he saw smoke curling to the skies, showing that some, at least, of his people survived. He stood as close in to the islands as he could, and lowering a skiff stocked it with provisions of bread and wine, but he had barely left the ship when four men came alongside in a boat. Among them was Weybehays, who hastened to advise the captain to re-board the Sardam, telling him of the tragic occurrences, that the conspirators had murdered 125 persons, and intended to surprise the ship with two shallops that very morning. At this moment the boats appeared, and the captain had hardly regained his ship when they ranged alongside. Pelsart was surprised to see the well armed men in red coats, with gold and silver facings. They asked to be taken on board, but after sternly ordering them to throw their arms into the sea, failing which they would be sunk, Pelsart seized and put them all in irons. One of them, John Bremen, confessed to slaying no fewer than twenty-seven persons. The worthy navigator subsequently seized the remainder of the conspirators on Cornelis's island, recovered the jewels dispensed among the people, except one gold chain, and also secured by the efforts of divers nearly all the chests of sunken treasure. The Batavia was broken into many pieces. Owing to the overcrowded state of the Sardam, and the danger of having so many ruffians on board, together with valuable treasure, Captain Pelsart called a council, and decided to forego the custom of taking the prisoners to Batavia to be tried, and a number of the worst were then and there executed. Cornelis was taken to Seal Island, had both hands chopped off, and was hung. Weybehays, who was rewarded by a Sergeantship, and his company were after some difficulty got on board, and the Sardam, on 28th October, 1629, sailed for Batavia. Two conspirators were placed on the mainland—near Champion Bay,—and there left. These determined villains, were, as far as is known, the first white inhabitants of Australia. The beginning was not a noble one, and formed grim augury of the destiny which awaited these young lands two centuries later. The stories of Pelsart and his company’s adventures are taken from Dutch records, and they give the first detailed account of the Australian coast.
Captain Stokes, R.N., of H.M.S. Beagle, when examining, in April, 1840, the Abrolhos Islands, during his Admiralty surveys of the north-west coast, reported that
"On the south-west point of an island the beams of a large vessel were discovered, and as the crew of the Zeewyk, lost in 1728, reported having seen the wreck of a ship on this part, there is little doubt that the remains were those of the Batavia, Commodore Pelsart, lost in 1627. We in consequence named our temporary anchorage Batavia Road, and the whole group Pelsart Group."
The yachts Klyn, Amsterdam, and Wezel, commanded by Gerrit Thomaz Pool, made the next voyages to Australia. Pool, or Poel, left Banda for the Great South Land, but, like Carstens, he was murdered at New Guinea. The supercargo, Pieterz Pieterson, then took command, and in 1636 touched on the coast of Arnhem, or Northern Territory of South Australia, which was named Van Diemen's Land after the Governor-General at Batavia. Although Pieterson saw no natives, he observed the smoke of their fires.
All these many voyages were made at the instigation of the Dutch Government and the Dutch East India Company. They sought to acquire more thorough and reliable information regarding this continent, and now went to considerable trouble and expense to fit out an expedition of discovery. They chose Abel Janszen Tasman to command this expedition, who, therefore, was likely to be one of their most esteemed navigators. Those in charge of the affairs of the company at Batavia compiled a valuable record of previous Dutch discoveries in Australia for Tasman's benefit, preparatory to giving exhaustive instructions for his guidance. From the MS. is gathered that they desire careful surveys, accurate descriptions, and anticipate as one result new discoveries. Tasman carried out his instructions with admirable faithfulness. Two years previously, on August 14, 1642, he sailed with the vessels Heemskirk and Zee-Haan, and discovered many islands—more than a score,—and among them Tasmania—named by him Van Diemen's Land, and New Zealand. In 1644 he set out on his second voyage per his instructions, and confined his attention to the South Land. His journal was probably lost, and only a few of his remarks remain, but maps published years later suggest his route. He proved the continuity of the north-west coast as far south as about the 22nd degree, near North West Cape of Western Australia, probably landed at Roebuck Bay, and examined the country from the Northern Territory to Exmouth Gulf. One writer has it that he sailed in the yachts Limmen, Zeemeuw, and De Brak. The maps imply that the appellation New Holland was first attached to Australia by him. His charts prove that his soundings were well worked out, although more recent navigators have sometimes failed to secure similar results, probably because of a difference in distance from the shore. From quotations which are understood to have been taken from his journal he evidently saw numerous natives. These, he reports, were malicious, shot at his company with bows and arrows, and hazeygayes and kalawayes, and threw stones at them. He also mentions that traditional custom of Australian aborigines of lighting fires at intervals along the coast to acquaint their neighbours that enemies are near. Australian settlement has proved that this custom is very general in various parts of the continent, in the interior as well as on the coast. As for the rest, we are told by him that the natives possessed rude canoes made of the bark trees, slept in the open, were quite naked, and, among other things, eat yams and roots. The coasts were barren and somewhat dangerous. For actual results, and value of his charts and remarks, Tasman must be considered as among the most successful Australian navigators, and his name is perpetuated in the colony of Tasmania by the old appellation of Van Diemen's Land being dropped in favour of a shorter, more suitable, and purely historical designation.
Evidently disappointed with the prospects of opening up a lucrative trade with New Holland, there is now a long gap in Australian coastal exploration by the Dutch. From Tasman's voyage to near the close of the seventeenth century no reliable information is obtainable as to special voyages, though several were made, but not for the purposes of discovery so much as to search for wrecked vessels and men. The Dutch, however, notwithstanding their absence of trade with Australia, included it within the line of demarcation of the East India Company's lands. The sterile coastal country viewed by most navigators was worth nothing to the white man, and the black was allowed to roam his hunting-grounds in freedom. Another wreck is believed to have taken place in 1656. The De Vergulde Draeck, from Texel, is said to have struck reefs on the mainland at latitude 30° 49’, which would bring it near Rottnest Island, in April, 1656. The yawning waves enveloped 118 of the ship's company, and the ship almost immediately sank. While 68 survivors were left on the mainland, seven men went in a boat to Batavia for assistance, where they arrived after intense suffering. Several disasters were brought about in successive efforts to relieve the shipwrecked people. First, the vessels Witte Valck and Goede Hoop were despatched by the East India Company, and sailed down the coast, but after losing a boat with eleven men they returned. The Vinck was instructed to call at New Holland, but she also failed in her mission. The Waeckende Boey and the Emeloort, in 1658, visited the mainland, and off the coast of Endraght Land foolishly abandoned fourteen men who had gone on shore in a boat and did not return within twenty-four hours. These men sought to reach Batavia. After terrible and poignant privations four of them reached that port, all of their companions having succumbed to their sufferings on the way. The fly-boat Elburg and the Bonne à la Veille joined in the search. But while several of these vessels observed many pieces of wreckage, evidently from the De Vergulde Draeck, such as planks and blocks, a piece of mast, a taffrail, fragments of barrels and other objects, scattered along the coast, they saw no white men, and the precise fate of these sixty-eight people who perished on the Western Australian coast was never known.
It may be of interest to mention here that in 1693 a fictitious work—the first romance on Australia, probably—was published in Paris. This book was wholly an imaginative one, and pretended to give much curious and startling information regarding the Terra Australis and its inhabitants.