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Historical Records of New Zealand Vol. II.

Instructions for; Skipper Commander Abel Jansz. Tasman, Pilot-Major Franchoys Jacobsz. Visscher, and the Council of the Ship “Heemskerck” and the Flute “de Zeehaen,” destined for the Discovery and Exploration of the unknown and known South Land, of the South-east Coast of Nova Guinea, and of the Islands circumjacent

Instructions for; Skipper Commander Abel Jansz. Tasman, Pilot-Major Franchoys Jacobsz. Visscher, and the Council of the Ship “Heemskerck” and the Flute “de Zeehaen,” destined for the Discovery and Exploration of the unknown and known South Land, of the South-east Coast of Nova Guinea, and of the Islands circumjacent.

It is well known that a hundred and fifty years ago only a third part of the globe (divided into Europe, Asia, and Africa) was known, and that the Kings of Castile and Portugal (Ferdinandus Catholicus and Don Emanuel) caused the unknown part of the world, commonly called America or the New World (and by cosmographers divided into North and South America), to be discovered by the highly renowned naval heroes Christopher Colombus and Americus Vesputius, who thereby achieved immortal praise; likewise that about the same time the unexplored coasts and islands of Africa and East India were first reached and discovered by the famous Vasco de Gama and other Portuguese captains. With what invaluable treasures, profitable trade-connections, useful trades, excellent territories, vast powers and dominions the said kings have by this discovery and its consequences enriched their kingdoms and crowns; what numberless multitudes of blind heathen have by the same been page 5 introduced to the blessed light of the Christian religion: all this is well known to the expert, has always been held highly praiseworthy by all persons of good sense, and has consequently served other European princes as an example for the discovery of many northerly regions.

Nevertheless, up to this time no Christian kings, princes, or commonwealths have seriously endeavoured to make timely discovery of the remaining unknown part of the terrestrial globe (situated in the south, and presumably almost as large as the Old or New World), although there are good reasons to suppose that it contains many excellent and fertile regions, seeing that it lies in the frigid, the temperate, and the torrid zones, so that it must needs comprise well-populated districts in favourable climates and under propitious skies. And seeing that in many countries north of the line equinoctial (in from 15 to 40 degrees latitude) there are found many rich mines of precious and other metals, and other treasures, there must be similar fertile and rich regions situated south of the equator, of which matter we have conspicuous examples and clear proofs in the gold-and silver-bearing provinces of Peru, Chili, Monomotapa, or Sofala (all of them situated south of the equator), so that it may be confidently expected that the expense and trouble that must be bestowed in the eventual discovery of so large a portion of the world will be rewarded with certain fruits of material profit and immortal fame.

This being the case, and no European colony being better fitted for initiating these promising discoveries than the City of Batavia (which is, as it were, the centre of East India, both known and unknown), therefore the Governors-General Jan Pietersz. Coen and Henrick Brouwer (our predecessors in office) were during their periods of office seriously inclined to send out expeditions for the discovery of the unknown southern regions, although they were prevented from so doing by voyages of greater necessity. Likewise ourselves have, during the period of our office, been well disposed towards the same, our lords and masters equally recommending the said matter as a highly useful one. For all which reasons we, the Council of India, having made a proper estimate of the company's naval forces now available, and having found that, without detriment to other more important expeditions, both warlike and mercantile, two able and fitting vessels may without inconvenience be set apart for this purpose, have determined no longer to postpone the long-contemplated discovery of the unknown south land, but to take the matter in hand forthwith, using for the purpose the ship “Heemskerck,” together with the flute “de Zeehaen” (duly provided with all necessaries), placing the said vessels page 6 under the command of your persons, to whom, as well fitted and inclined to the same, we with full confidence commit this important voyage, trusting that you will ably and prudently manage the same with good judgment, necessary courage, and the requisite patience, so that on your return you will be able to give us a full and satisfactory account of the execution of your mandate.

We shall not here enlarge on the various methods for discovering the south land submitted to us in writing by certain experienced pilots, but will rather refer you to the appended copies of the same, of which you can avail yourselves on occasion; while in the following we proceed to give you such rules and instructions as we think best adapted to meet your case, it being always understood, however, that you will be at liberty at all times to introduce such corrections as with the advice of your council you shall deem to be required by time, place, and circumstances, with an eye to the advantage of the company and the attainment of our object; all which we confidently leave to your tried judgment and experience. Tomorrow morning, after due muster, you will then set sail together, and try to get out of Sunda Strait as quickly as possible, setting your course so as to fall in speedily with the south-east trade-wind, with which you will take your way westward to the Island of Mauritius (running in sight of Diego Rodrigos), and come to anchor there in the south-east harbour before the fortress of Fredrick Henrick, where you will hand to Commander Adriaan Van der Stel our annexed letters, together with the commodities you have taken on board for the said island. While you are there you will quickly and properly provide your ships with water, firewood, and refreshments, bestowing on this no more than fourteen or fifteen days, however, or till the 12th or 15th of October at the latest, taking due care that during that time your crews be properly refreshed and dieted exclusively on fresh viands, to which end we have given the needful orders to Commander Van der Stel to assist you to the extent of his power, and if necessary to allow you to go a-hunting for wild animals.

As before mentioned, your necessities having been provided for, you will about medio October, or earlier, set sail from the Mauritius, shaping your course with the trade-wind nearly southward, as high as wind and weather shall permit, until about the southern latitude of 36 or 38 degrees. When you have got out of the eastern trade-wind you shall fall in with the variable winds, with which you will always put about on the best tack for getting to the southward, until you get into the western trade-wind, with which you will sail nearly southward page 7 until you come upon the unknown south land, or as far as south latitude 52 or 54 degrees, inclusive; and if in this latitude you should not discover any land, you will set your course due east, and sail on until you get into the longitude of the eastern point of Nova Guinea, or of the Salomonis Islands, situated in about 220 degrees longitude, or until you should meet with land; and when this is the case, whether in the beginning or afterwards, when you have sailed more to eastward, you will sail eastward (as before mentioned) along the coasts or islands discovered, following the direction of the same.

All the lands, islands, points, turnings, inlets, bays, rivers, shoals, banks, sands, cliffs, rocks, &c., which you may meet with and pass you will duly map out and describe, and also have proper drawings made of their appearance and shape, for which purpose we have ordered an able draughtsman to join your expedition. You will likewise carefully note in what latitude they are situated; how the coasts, islands, capes, headlands or points, bays, and rivers bear from each other, and by what distances they are separated; what conspicuous landmarks, such as mountains, hills, trees, or buildings, by which they may be recognized, are visible on them; likewise what depths and shallows, sunken rocks, projecting shoals, and reefs are situated about and near the points; how and by what marks these may most conveniently be avoided; item, whether the grounds or bottoms are hard, rugged, soft, level, sloping, or steep; whether one should come on sounding, or not; by what land and sea marks the best anchoring-grounds in roadsteads and bays may be known; the bearings of the inlets, creeks, and rivers, and how these may best be made and entered; what winds blow in these regions; the direction of the currents; whether the tides are regulated by the moon or by the winds; what changes of monsoons, rains, and dry weather you observe; furthermore, diligently observing and noting whatever requires the careful attention of experienced steersmen, and may in future be helpful to others who shall navigate to the countries discovered. The summer season being evidently the time best fitted for the intended voyage and for the observation of all the things mentioned, on account of the length of the days and the shortness of the nights at that time of year, you will take care not to neglect time nor waste any needlessly, but make the most of the summer season and the favourable weather, when you will be able to sail on by night and by day alike, which you cannot do when the days are drawing in and there is no moon, seeing that it is of the highest importance that you should get sight of everything, if you wish to discover a great deal soon and in a short time.

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As already mentioned, you will explore the coast discovered on an eastward course, or, if you should not meet with any land, you will continue your eastward course as far as the longitude of New Guinea or the Salomonis Islands, unless after mature consideration you should deem it better to sail no farther than the longitude of the eastern extremity of the known south land, or of the Islands of St. Pieter and Franchoys, and then to direct your course due north, in order to run in sight of these islands; thence to follow the coast to eastward, in order to ascertain how far it extends, and whether this discovered south land joins Nova Guinea near Cape Keer-weer, or whether it is separated from the same by channels or passages; in which latter case, by passing through one of the channels as far as the Wilms River, the north coast might be conveniently explored sailing westward; but since it is most likely to be supposed that these lands join each other without a break, and it is uncertain whether you would be able to follow its south coast as far as Nova Guinea, owing to its north-east trend and your falling in with the eastern trade-wind, so that you might perhaps be compelled for that purpose to go southward in order to fall in with the westerly winds, or otherwise to return to Batavia by the westward route along the land of d'Eendracht; therefore we think the route first proposed to be the more eligible one—namely, to sail to eastward as far as the longitude of Nova Guinea or of the Salomonis Islands.

We therefore, as aforesaid, give it as our opinion that, in case you should in sailing eastwards not come upon any land in 48, 52, or 54 degrees southern latitude, you should not seek any land farther to southward, but proceed on an easterly course as far as the longitude of the east side of Nova Guinea, and, with the consent of the council, from there to the Salomonis Islands, or still 100, 150, or 200 miles more to eastward, in order to become the better assured of a passage from the Indian Ocean into the South Sea, and to prepare the way for afterwards conveniently finding a short route to Chili.

When on the course thus indicated you shall have reached the longitude of the Salomonis Islands, or have got from 100 to 200 miles more to eastward, you will, with the south-east trade-wind, and keeping a westerly course, explore the same, and otherwise sail northward and westward, south or north of the islands (if such they be), towards the east coast of Nova Guinea and along it as far as the Island of Gylolo, where we have no doubt you will discover certain passages or channels to the south, which, that you may conveniently and profitably pass through the same, you will endeavour to be near in the unsettled month of April, in order to get to Cape Keer-weer with the page 9 variable winds, by interior passages (if practicable) east of Ceram, and the Islands of Cauwer, Quey, and Arou; all which should be effected before the east monsoon begins to stiffen, as otherwise efforts to run to the south so far to eastward would be attended with great difficulty.

Now, when you have fetched up Cape Keer-weer (in 18 degrees latitude), you will sail along the coast of this land to westward as far as Wilms River (situated in d'Eendracht's landt in 21 degrees), making use of the south-east trade-wind, and following the direction of the coast; observing, describing, and noting what above has been enumerated as regards the discovery and exploration of the unknown south land, more especially diligently endeavouring to ascertain whether between Nova Guinea and the land of d'Eendracht, particularly at the points just mentioned—Cape Keer-weer and the Wilms River— there are any channels or passages to southward, such channels or passages being of the utmost importance for getting speedily into the South Sea.

What instructions were in 1636 given to Commander Gerrit Pool for the discovery of this unknown region you will be able to see from the copy of the same which we annex, and of which you can avail yourselves on occasion.

From Willems River, which we hope you will reach about the month of May or July or next year, you will shape your course straight for the middle of the Isle of Java, then sail along its south coast with the east monsoon, and thus pass through Sunda Strait on your way to Batavia, between the western extremity of Java and the Prince Islands.

That you may avoid running against unknown land, and being cast on shoals or cliffs, and prevent accidents thereby arising so far as human precaution may go, you will cause a proper look-out to be kept without intermission, and promise a reasonable reward to the person who shall first see and become aware of unknown coasts or dangerous shoals.

The above is what we have deemed needful to enjoin you regarding courses and sailing-routes in order to the discovery of the unknown southern regions; what other things may be required, according as circumstances shall present themselves, we herewith refer to your good management, experienced sea-manship, and the decision of the ship's council.

Passing on to other matters which you will have diligently to observe, attend to, and pursue in the voyage now by you to be undertaken, we urgently recommend you, in discovering new coasts, to come to anchor now and then when time and place shall serve, always seeking and selecting convenient and fitting bays or roadsteads where you may lie with least danger, page 10 for which purpose the two tinganghs you take along with you may be of great use, more especially in the discovery and exploration of bays, shoals, harbours, rivers, &c., what time you shall have come near Nova Guinea and the land of d'Eendracht, or got into smooth seas with the south-east trade-wind.

In landing with small craft, extreme caution will every-where have to be used, seeing that it is well known that the southern regions are peopled by fierce savages, for which reason you will always have to be well armed and to use every prudent precaution, since experience has taught in all parts of the world that barbarian men are nowise to be trusted, because they commonly think that the foreigners who so unexpectedly appear before them have come only to seize their land, which (owing to heedlessness and over-confidence) in the discovery of America occasioned many instances of treacherous slaughter; on which account you will treat with amity and kindness such barbarian men as you shall meet and come to parley with, and connive at small affronts, thefts, and the like which they should put upon or commit against our men, lest punishments inflicted should give them a grudge against us, and by shows of kindness gain them over to us, that you may the more readily from them obtain information touching themselves, their country, and their circumstances, thus learning whether there is anything profitable to be got or effected.

So far as time shall allow, you will diligently strive to gather information concerning the situation of their country, the fruits and cattle it produces, their methods of building houses, the appearance and shape of the inhabitants, their dress, arms, manners, diet, means of livelihood, religion, mode of government, their wars, and the like notable things, more especially whether they are kindly or cruelly disposed; showing them various specimens of the commodities you have taken with you for that purpose, so as to learn what commodities and materials are found in their country and what things they are desirous of obtaining from us in return: all which matters you will carefully note, correctly describe, and faithfully set forth in drawings, keeping for the purpose an ample and elaborate journal, in which you will set down an exact record of all that may befall you, that on your return you may be able to lay a proper report before us.

If, unlikely as it may be, you should happen to come to any country peopled by civilised men, you will give to them greater attention than to wild barbarians, endeavouring to come into contact and parley with its Magistrates and subjects, letting them know that you have landed there for the sake of commerce, showing them specimens of the commodities which you have page 11 taken on board for the purpose, for which we refer you to the specified invoice; closely observing what things they set store by and are most inclined to; especially trying to find out what commodities their country yields, likewise inquiring after gold and silver, whether the latter are by them held in high esteem; making them believe that you are by no means eager for precious metals, so as to leave them ignorant of the value of the same; and if they should offer you gold or silver in exchange for your articles, you will pretend to hold the same in slight regard, showing them copper, pewter, or lead, and giving them an impression as if the minerals last mentioned were by us set greater value on.

You will prudently prevent all manner of insolence and all arbitrary action on the part of our men against the nations discovered, and take due care that no injury be done them in their houses, gardens, vessels, or their property, their wives, &c.; nor shall you carry off any of the inhabitants from their country against their will; should, however, any of them be voluntarily disposed to accompany you, you are at full liberty to bring them hither.

If in the course of this voyage there should be discovered any rich countries or regions, islands, or passages profitable to the company, we shall not be found ungrateful towards the managers of the expedition and all the well-behaved men taking part in it, duly recompensing the pains and trouble they have been at, and honouring them with such rewards as their services done shall be found to have deserved; on all which all of you may rely to the fullest extent.

The ships are manned with 110 able-bodied men—to wit, the “Heemskerck” with sixty and the “Zeehaen” with fifty. They are victualled and provided with all necessaries for twelve and with rice for eighteen calendar months; out of these you will have the ordinary rations regularly and properly served out, with two meat-days and one bacon-day every week, and one mutchkin and a half of arrack every day; all which you will cause to be properly arranged and seen to. Of strong arrack each of the ships will take on board two hogsheads, to be in moderation served out in cold weather for the sake of the men's health. But, above all, you will carefully husband the fresh water, that you may not come to be in want of it, or be forced to delay your voyage in order to seek it, or return from such search unsuccessfully.

And to the end that this voyage may be well regulated and performed in accordance with these instructions and our good intentions, that proper order may be maintained among the men, law and justice be administered in conformity with the page 12 general regulations, and, furthermore, everything that in so long and dangerous an expedition shall occur and be required be done and executed to the best advantage and service of the company, therefore we have appointed the Honourable Abel Jansz. Tasman commander of the two ships, by the present authorising him to carry the flag on the manitopmast of the “Heemskerck,” to convene the council, and permanently to occupy the chair in the same; in consideration thereof commanding and enjoining all officers and sailors, excepting none, who have been ordered on board the ships “Heemskerck” and “Zeehaen” to acknowledge the aforesaid Abel Tasman as their commander and chief, to respect and obey him, and likewise on all occasions to assist him with their good advice and diligent service, for the furtherance of the voyage and the discovery of unknown lands, in such fashion as befits vigilant and faithful servants, and as on their return they can conscientiously answer for to ourselves.

The council of these ships will consist of the persons following, to wit:—

The Commander Abel Jansz. Tasman, permanent President.
The Skipper Yde T'jercxsz, on board the “Heemskerck.”
The Pilot-major Francois Jacobsz do.
The Skipper Gerrit Jansz, on board the “Zeehaen.”
The Supercargo Isaack Gilsemans do.
The Subcargo Abraham Coomans, on board the “Heems-
kerck,” who will also act as Secretary.
The first steersman Henrick… on board the “Zee- haen.”

In this council all matters relating to the progress of this voyage and the execution of our instructions will have to be discussed and determined, the commander to have a double vote in case of equality of votes; in matters touching the administration of justice the master boatswains will also have to be summoned, according to the orders of our masters; but in matters relating to navigation, such as the courses to be held and the discoveries of lands to be made, the Pilot-major Francoys Jacobsz will give his vote immediately after the commander, and his advice be duly attended to, the plan of the voyage having been drawn up in conjunction with him; in these cases the second mates will also have to be summoned to attend the council, in which they will have an advisory vote; the commander will have to collect these votes, and decisions to be determined by a majority of the same, the commander taking due care that all resolutions taken be forthwith recorded, properly signed, and efficiently executed for the service of the company.

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In case of decease of Commander Tasman (which God in His mercy avert), Skipper Yde T'jercksen shall succeed to his place, and command, in all points replacing his predecessor, according to these our instructions, and be obeyed like him.

As soon as you shall be at sea, you will, with the advice of the council, and in order the better to remain together, draw up a proper code of signals, such code being of the utmost importance for the execution of our plan, which code should also contain arrangements necessary for enabling you to come together again, if by storm (which God avert) you should get separated from each other.

Concluding these instructions, we cordially wish you the blessing of the Ruler of all things, praying that He may in His mercy endow you with manly courage in the execution of the intended discovery, and may grant you a safe return, to the increase of His glory, the greater reputation of our country, the benefit of the company's service, and your own immortal honour.

Done in the Castle of Batavia, the 13th of August, A.D. 1642.


Antonio van Diemen


Cornelis Vander Lijn


Joan Maetsuijcker


Justus Schouten


Salomon Sweers


Cornelis Witsen

, and

Pieter Boreel