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Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

Abel Tasman

page 17

Abel Tasman

1642 to 1643

In 1636 Anthony van Diemen, a man of exceptional ability, was appointed Governor-General at Batavia; and he developed plans for further exploration of the land to the south, which had come to be called Southland. A Dutch expedition had already been made to the north to gain information about islands in the region of Japan. Abel Tasman, who had shown ability in the northern voyage, was selected to command the expedition to the south. In 1642 the Heemskirk and Zeehaan were equipped for the expedition, and Franz Jacobzoon Visscher was appointed Pilot Major and chief adviser. The expedition's orders were to call at Mauritius, sail to the south of Southland, and work east to survey the remaining unknown land.

Tasman sailed from Batavia on August 14, 1642, with his two ships. After calling at Mauritius, he sailed southeast and then south-southeast to clear the southern extremity of Southland; then, east by north. On November 24 he encountered the land now known as Tasmania, which he named Anthony van Diemens Land. He explored the southern part and, without discovering that it was an island, continued his course toward the east on December 5. On December 13, a large high land was sighted, and on the 18th the ships anchored within a bay. The inhabitants came out in double canoes, and a favorable opportunity occurring when a boat passed between the two ships, the natives killed three and wounded one member of one of the boat's crew. Tasman referred to the attackers as "murderers" but the attack was no worse than the slaying of unarmed Tongans by the Dutch on the expedition of Le Maire and Schouten. Tasman named the bay Murderers Bay, but the name was later changed to the more appropriate Golden Bay. The land was called Staten Land, later changed to New Zealand. Tasman weighed anchor and sailed up the west coast of the North Island without knowing that he had been in the western entrance to a strait which separated two islands. He named a northern cape, Cape Maria van Diemen and called the islands to the north the Three Kings. Tasman was the European discoverer of New Zealand, but he had such a healthy respect for the inhabitants that he did not land though he needed water badly. His artist has handed down an inaccurate drawing of the Maori double canoes which shows the crews with long hair bunched up into topknots.

Tasman was off the Three Kings on January 5, 1643. On the 19th he picked up the most southerly of the Tongan islands which he named Pylstaart. Two days later he reached Eua, which he named Middelburgh, and Tongatabu, which he named Amsterdam. He sailed on to the Haapai Islands, and the island called Amamocka (Nomuka) by the natives he named Rotterdam. He traded with the people on friendly terms and recorded interesting information concerning them. He passed on through the Fiji islands, encountered Ontong Java and Le Maire's Groene Islands, sailed along the north coast of New Guinea, page 18and reached Batavia on June 15, 1643, after a voyage of ten months.

Tasman was the first navigator to enter the south Pacific from the west. He discovered New Zealand and the southern and middle groups of the Tongan islands, and he was the first to circumnavigate Australia.