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From Tasman To Marsden.

Chapter I. — Discovery by Tasman, 1642 and 1643

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Chapter I.
Discovery by Tasman, 1642 and 1643.

Preparatory to giving an account of the discovery of these islands of ours it is well to explain what knowledge of the coastline of this part of the world was available to the voyagers of the early portion of the seventeenth century.

Early as it was, a considerable shipping came round the Cape of Good Hope and made northwards to its destination on the shores of India, or further to the east at Batavia. The duration of these voyages in the slow sailing craft of those days was very protracted, until it struck some enterprising mariner to make his “easting" in the latitude of the Cape, and steer north when about the longitude of his destination. The first man to do this found that it shortened his journey very materially, discovered the western shore of a great continent, and left his name in Dirk Hartog Island, on the west coast of Western Australia. Others followed, until the regular course of the Dutch East India Company's vessels was to sail east from the Cape of Good Hope until the Australian continent was picked up, and then northwards to their destination.

It was not long before the discoveries of a succession of captains began to evolve the coastline of Australia from well into the Great Australian Bight, round the western fringe of the continent and away north, with larger or smaller breaks, as far as the vicinity of Cape York. The names of these navigators, and the names of many of their ships, are still to be found along the coast. From this rudely ascertained coastline, right across the South Pacific, no navigator had ever explored, and many scientists tenaciously held to page 2 the belief that there existed a great continent, the eastern boundary of which was the said line, and the western extremity, Staten Land, to the south of South America.

Batavia, on the little island of Java, was the centre of civilisation and of commerce of all the land known to the north of this mythical South Land, and in Batavia the Dutch East India Company, holding undisputed commercial sway in the East, had at the time when our narrative opens—1641–2—established its headquarters. To profit by the position, and also to ascertain if a route could be found to South America round the land which had up to now blocked their passage eastwards, considerable correspondence took place between the Directors in Holland and the Governor-General and Councillors in Batavia. Both favoured the scheme and both were eager for it to be put into execution at as early a date as possible, but it was not until August 1642, that there was ready for sea at Batavia the Expedition which was to establish the insularity of Australia and place the western outline of New Zealand on the map of the world.

The best men the Dutch commanded were selected for the Expedition—Abel Janszoon Tasman as commander, and Francis Jacobszoon Visscher as pilot major. The former was a man of 39 years of age, of which nine had been spent in the employment of the Company in India, and was easily the foremost navigator in the Company's service at Batavia at that time. The latter had acquired a wonderful reputation for his close study of navigation, his observance of the ocean currents, and his skill in surveying and charting the various coastlines. Some considerable delay took place in the departure of the Expedition, owing to the necessity of utilising one of the vessels selected on another mission, and Visscher spent a portion of his enforced holiday preparing a “Memoir concerning the discovery of the South-land," dated January 22, 1642, which afterwards was made the basis of the “Instructions" issued to the commander. So much for the principal persons connected with the Expedition.

The two ships selected for the task were the Heemskerck, a small war-yacht of 60 tons, and the Zeehaen, a flute or long page 3 narrow ship of 100 tons. The former had on board 60, and the latter 50, “of the ablest-bodied seafaring men" to be found in Batavia. They were provisioned for 12 to 18 months, and had a large supply of trade for the inhabitants of any countries they might discover.

The Instructions required the Expedition to make for the Mauritius, thoroughly recruit the health of the men there, then proceed south as far as 52° or 54°, and, if no land was by that time found, steer due east to the longitude of New Guinea or the Solomon Islands, then home to Batavia. If land was found on the eastern trip, its course was to be traversed. Thus would be determined whether there existed a passage from the Indian Ocean to the Southern Pacific, and this might lead to the discovery of a route to South America and enable trade relations to be established between Batavia and that country.

Even at that early date an idea was prevalent that the great unknown South-land might contain gold, owing to the presence of the precious metal in South America. On this point Tasman was instructed to preserve the greatest innocence of demeanour; he was to inquire “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, 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." As every reader knows, the land when found and explored proved to have some of the richest gold mines in the world.

The eventful voyage was commenced on 14th August 1642, and the run to the Mauritius was completed by 5th September. A month was spent procuring refreshments for the crews and refitting the vessels, and, after a great deal of trouble, Tasman got to sea on 8th October, bound south. When in the 48th parallel it was decided, on the advice of Visscher, to sail eastward on the 44th parallel. The selection of the parallel of latitude was a fortunate one as it enabled Tasman, on 24th November, to sight a new land to which page 4 he gave the name of Antony van Diemen's Land, after the Governor-General who had sent the Expedition out. From 24th November until 5th December, the two ships remained on the coast of what is now known to the world as Tasmania, and then made eastward to carry out the latter part of their instructions, which required them to go east until they reached the longitude of the Solomon Islands.

Still running to the east, under date 13th December, the following entry is to be found in the Journal:—“Towards noon we saw a large, high-lying land, bearing south-east of us about 15 miles distance." Thus is the discovery of New Zealand recorded. The discovery too was quite unexpected, as on the previous day Tasman had entered in his Journal “The heavy swells still continuing from the south-west, there is no mainland to be expected here to southward." Within 24 hours he discovered what he thought was a continent stretching across to South America.

No sooner was the land sighted than Tasman turned his ships towards it and summoned the officers of the Zeehaen on board his own vessel, when it was resolved to touch at the land as quickly as possible. The high ground between Hokitika and Okarito is generally supposed to have been that first seen by Tasman. By evening enough of the coastline could be discerned to indicate to the voyagers that it was not particularly inviting, and the course was altered more and more to the east to run along the land within easy view of the breakers. The following day Tasman approached Cape Foulwind, and cast anchor for the night, the weather being very calm.

The Cape was passed about midday on 15th December, and Karamea Bight during the afternoon. All the coastal features were detected, but there were no signs of inhabitants on a “very desolate" coast. By evening on the following day Tasman found himself opposite the north of the South Island, and summoned his second council, which decided to follow the outline of the land stretching away towards the east.

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On the seventeenth, as the two vessels sailed along the sandy coast towards where the lighthouse now stands, the first indications of inhabitants, in the form of smoke ascending from fires on shore, were observed. During the afternoon of that day the two vessels came very near to the sandspit, and, in the evening, anchored near its extremity. Over this low spit the sailors could see the waters of Golden Bay stretching south to the mainland.

Next day being fine the Expedition sailed into Golden Bay, and, by the afternoon, had reached Separation Point, when a boat was sent ahead from each ship to look out for a fitting anchorage and a convenient watering place. At sunset the anchor was let go in fifteen fathoms. About an hour afterwards lights were observed, and four canoes of Natives were seen close inshore, two of which were coming towards the ships, whereupon the ships' boats returned and reported that they had found 13 fathoms of water half-a-mile from the shore. So far as we can now locate the anchorage it was near Waramanga Beach. As the evening wore on, the Maoris, whose curiosity had prompted them to visit the strange Dutch craft, began to shout out, and to blow an instrument which sounded to Tasman's men like a Moorish trumpet. To the latter the ships' trumpeters replied, and, after an exchange of blasts, the Natives paddled away in the gathering darkness.

To prevent surprises, double watches were kept on board, and muskets, pikes, and cutlasses, were held in readiness for instant use.

The nineteenth of December commenced with every prospect of getting into peaceful touch with the Natives of the new land. In the morning there came off from the shore a boat with thirteen occupants; it consisted of two long narrow prows, set side by side, with planks placed across. The language of the people could not be made out from the vocabularies which had been supplied to the Expedition at Batavia, but the Dutchmen noted their rough voices, their strong boned appearance, the colour of their skins, and the Japanese style of tying the hair in a knot at the back of the page 6 head, surmounted by a large thick white feather. Every effort was made to induce them to come on board, and linen, knives, etc., were displayed, but all to no purpose. After a while the Natives returned to the shore.

Tasman had, on the previous night, summoned a meeting of the Council, and now, in obedience to that summons, the officers of the Zeehaen came on board the Heemskerck, when it was decided that, as the people appeared to be friendly disposed, and there was good anchoring ground, the vessels should move in closer to the shore. Before this decision was carried into effect, the vessels were visited by seven more canoes. Two of the larger of these appeared specially to direct their attention to the Zeehaen; one, with seventeen men on board, paddled round behind, while the other, with thirteen occupants, came within half a stone's throw of the Heemskerck. As if they contemplated united action of some kind, the Natives in the two boats kept calling to one another, and paid no attention to the efforts which were made from the Heemskerck to divert their attention by a display of goods. At this juncture, and while his vessel was evidently the object of close attention by the Natives, it was unfortunate that the captain of the Zeehaen was on board the Heemskerck; and the steps he took to put the crew of his vessel on their guard caused a fearful disaster. Why he did not rejoin his ship in the hour of danger cannot be explained; it can only be stated that he sent his quartermaster, with six men, to warn his second mate to be on his guard, to use caution, and, if the Natives offered to come on board, not to allow too many on at one time. He appeared satisfied to leave the vessel without either its captain or its first mate.

When the boat conveying this warning was passing from the one ship to the other, the Natives in the canoe alongside the Heemskerck contented themselves with merely calling to those behind the Zeehaen, and waving their paddles; the moment, however, that the instructions sent to the junior officer of the Zeehaen had been delivered, and the boat was on its return journey, the Natives in the smaller canoe page 7 paddled furiously towards the Dutchmen, the two crafts collided, and in the excitement, one Native, with a long blunt pike-looking instrument, knocked the quartermaster overboard, and the others set upon the Dutchmen with their meres, killing three, and mortally wounding a fourth. Three of the sailors, including the quartermaster, plunged or were thrown into the water and swam for the Heemskerck, and were picked up by a boat sent to their aid. The Natives had no sooner committed the deed, than they took one of the dead bodies into their canoe, threw another overboard, and paddled off without injury, although a heavy fire was directed against them from the ships. Holman, the captain of the Heemskerck, then manned a boat and rowed to the unfortunate craft which had been turned adrift, and in it he found one man dead, and one mortally wounded.

In “Harris' Voyages," published in 1744, Tasman is described as being on board the Zeehaen, not on the Heemskerck, and the Natives are stated to have come on board the latter vessel, whereupon Tasman sent a boat to put the officers upon their guard. Another variation from our narrative is contained in some of the older authorities in the description of the fight, which is stated to have taken place as the boat was making its way from the Heemskerck to the Zeehaen, instead of when returning from the latter vessel. Of the authorities for the latter, Burney, in his “Voyages and Discoveries," written in 1813, may be taken as an example. In view of the elaborate care taken in the translation and publication of Tasman's Journal in 1898, by J. E. Heeres of Amsterdam, and the careful scrutiny to which all existing copies were subjected, the version therein contained, which is that adopted by the author, must be accepted as against Harris' and Burney's renderings of the earlier and less exhaustively prepared translations.

Horrified at the awful scene of which the two ships' crews had been witnesses, the captains weighed anchor and set sail.

Emboldened by the success of their first venture, no less than eleven canoes, swarming with Natives, now approached page 8 the Dutch vessels. They were allowed to come close alongside, when they were greeted with a number of shots from the guns, but beyond one man hit by the discharge from the Zeehaen, no one appeared to be injured. The Natives, terrified by the volley, paddled away rapidly for the shore. In two of the canoes sails were seen to be hoisted.

About noon, another meeting of the Council was held, when the awful tragedy was discussed, and the following resolution drawn up: “Seeing that the detestable deed of these Natives against four men of the Zeehaen's crew, perpetrated this morning, must teach us to consider the inhabitants of this country as enemies, that therefore it will be best to sail eastward along the coast, following the trend of the land, in order to ascertain whether there are any fitting places, where refreshments and water would be obtainable."

There seems little reason to doubt that the terrible calamity just described could have been averted, had the captain of the Zeehaen rejoined his vessel on the first sign of danger. Possibly the deliberations of the Council were not completed, and Janszoon, his place being still on the Heemskerck, had no alternative but send instructions to his junior officer what course to follow should the Natives attempt to come on board, but all experience is against a captain absenting himself from his vessel on such an occasion. The instructions having been given to the officers on the Zeehaen, the boat had to return to the captain on board the Heemskerck, which would not have been necessary had Janszoon rejoined his vessel, instead of simply sending a message. The appearance of the boat passing from one ship to the other suggested to the Natives an attack, the return gave the opportunity. Tasman, while recording with great detail the events connected with the massacre, does not give the names of those killed. Another log, kept by a sailor, gives no information about the attack, but records the names of those who lost their lives—the first Europeans to meet death at the hands of New Zealanders—Jan Tyssen of Oue-ven, Tobias Pietersz of Delft, and Jan Isbrantsz. The fact that one of the dead bodies was taken into the canoe, though it suggested nothing page 9 to the Dutchmen, indicates to us how the victory was that night celebrated by the New Zealanders on the shores of Golden Bay.

The name Staten Land was given to the mainland, “since we deemed it quite possible that this land is part of the great Staten Landt, though this is not quite certain," and that of Murderers Bay to the scene of the disaster.

After a perusal of Tasman's Journal and the charts accompanying it, the scene of this encounter is capable of fairly accurate determination. In coming to a conclusion the author has also had the benefit of the very valuable opinion of Captain Lambert, one of the most experienced navigators on that part of the coast, who has kindly worked out a very careful analysis of Tasman's remarks. His anchorage was in Golden Bay, off Waramanga Beach, and two miles W. by N. 1/2 N. of Separation Point. This spot is ascertained by taking the error known to be present in his calculations at fixed points on the coastline, and applying it to the figures given when recording his anchorage. It also fits in with the position shown in his chart.

Leaving the anchorage, Tasman sailed on a N.E. by N. course, which would take his past Stephens Island and well over to the mainland near the mouth of the Rangitikei River. His first thought was that here he would find a passage into the open South Sea, but as his soundings indicated the near approach of land, he tacked to await the day.

On the twentieth, land was visible on all sides, and Tasman, who was disappointed at not finding a passage to the open South Sea, endeavoured to get out by the road he had come in. At noon he tacked to the north and sailed on until, after breakfast on 21st December, he again picked up the coastline towards the Patea River. Beating about, to get out of the bay in which he appeared to be, his next southern tack brought him across to the South Island, in a direct line with Stephens Island, which he picked up during the afternoon. After running down the coastline of D'Urville Island until Stephens Island was N.N.W. of him, Tasman cast anchor.

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Here the Expedition remained from the 21st to the 26th December. The weather proved very unsatisfactory, and as the anchorage was rather exposed, Tasman did not enjoy a very comfortable time. During the second night both ships had to drop second anchors, and the Heemskerck was compelled to strike her tops. Throughout the third day the weather was even more threatening. On the twenty-fourth, during a lull in the storm, Tasman summoned the officers of the Zeehaen on board his ship, and again pointed out to them the evidences of a passage to the south-east, and intimated that it would be well, when the weather moderated, to search for it and see whether fresh water could be got in that direction. On the 25th the weather moderated, and the vessels were got ready for sea. On the 26th they sailed.

Speaking of this anchorage, Tasman says: “We are lying here in 40° 50′ S. Latitude and Longitude 192° 37′." Counting his errors as present in all his New Zealand reckonings would put him in the same latitude as when anchored in Murderers Bay, and 1° 7″ E. of that anchorage. The Rangitoto Islands are in the same latitude as Separation Point and 1° E. of it. If, therefore, the first anchorage was W. of Separation Point, the second must have been just outside the Rangitoto Islands. This position would place Stephens Island N.N.W. as described by Tasman, would also provide a limited protection from the westerly winds which prevailed while the Expedition was at anchor, and would, at the same time, suggest a removal when the wind shifted round to the east.

The sailor differs from Tasman in giving the twenty-second as the date when the vessels anchored, but his description is generally fully as good as that of the commander's. He says they “came into a creek about one mile from the shore." As he is speaking of Dutch miles, which are equivalent to four English miles, he is evidently referring to the shores of D'Urville Island. Our sailor friend also tells us that, on the twenty-fifth, the master of the Zeehaen, and the merchant, came on board the Heemskerck as guests of the commander, two pigs were killed for the crew, and a tankard page 11 of wine given to every mess “as it was the time of the fair" —the first Christmas celebrations on the coast of New Zealand.

While Tasman's Journal gives the same, Visscher's chart shows, and the sailor's journal gives, a different, latitude for the two anchorages. The site marked on Visscher's chart would place the second anchorage well into Admiralty Bay leading up to the French Pass, which might be read as the “creek" mentioned by the sailor. Roughly speaking the chart would indicate that they were anchored as far south of the Rangitoto Islands, as these are south of Stephens Island, in 33 fathoms, in such a position that the last-mentioned Island bore N.N.W. From this spot one could look straight into the French Pass, and from the same place the jutting headlands to the south and east would hide the Sounds and convey the idea of a straight run of coastline away to the east, exactly as it is shown on the chart.

On the twenty-sixth, easterly weather brought a suitable opportunity of getting away, but when the ships were clear of their anchorage the weather changed to south-easterly and southerly with a stiff breeze. Tasman therefore abandoned the idea of examining whether a passage existed to the southeast, and followed the coastline which he had seen stretching away to the northward. So satisfied was he that a passage would be found to the south-east that the map prepared by Visscher contains a break in the coastline, at the very spot where, 127 years afterwards, Cook discovered the strait.

When the soundings on the northern run gave 60 fathoms Tasman altered his course to the westward, and, at night, wisely lay-to. No land was sighted on the twenty-seventh, and the course was altered to N.E. Again the vessels lay-to for the night. At noon on the twenty-eighth, after running some time on an easterly course, Mt. Karioi, to the south of Whangaroa Harbour, was sighted. This was the first land sighted, so Tasman records in his Journal, since that “seen in 40°," and that was on the twenty-first. What we now call Cape Egmont was not seen, but the lay of the land was surmised and charted. “As far as I could observe," says Tasman, “this coast extends south and north," and, to the Cape, the page 12 name of Pieter Booreel was given, after one of the members of the Council at Batavia. This same day Tasman paid a visit to the Zeehaen.

Land was seen on the thirtieth, and on the thirty-first was again in sight, high in some places, and covered with dunes in others. New Year's Day of 1643 was calm, and the ships drifted along a “level and even" coast, “without reefs or shoals," and the boats were on one occasion lowered to tow the Heemskerck.

On the morning of 4th January Tasman sighted a Cape with an island off it, and immediately summoned his Council, when it was decided to touch at the island. From the Cape the land was seen falling away to the east, but a course was laid for the island. No landing was made that day however, as it was decided, after consultation with the Zeehaen, to run on if the weather proved favourable.

On the fifth, about noon, two boats were lowered, one from the Heemskerck, under Visscher, and the other from the Zeehaen, under supercargo Gilsemans, to look for water. In a safe but small bay they found good fresh water “coming down in great plenty from a steep mountain," but owing to the surf on the shore it was almost impossible to get at it. The boats then rowed round the island, looking for a better spot. As they rowed along some 30 or 35 Natives were seen moving about—“men of tall stature… who called out to them in a very loud voice," and who, “in walking on, took enormous strides." Cultivation was seen only near the solitary stream of running water. After exploring the possibilities of the island the boats returned to the ships, which, towards evening, cast anchor, a small swivel-gun-shot's distance from the land.

The sailor, whose journal is available, accompanied the Heemskerck's boat, and says that the Natives threw stones at them as they passed.

On 6th January 1643, the two boats were again sent to the watering place, the men well armed, and the boats provided with water casks. When they were about half-way there, and were attempting to pass “between a certain point page 13 and another large high rock or small island" they found the current so strong that it was all they could do to hold their own in the empty boats, and those in command decided not to expose their small craft to further peril, and made back for the ships. By this time the breeze had freshened, and they were recalled to the ship by a gun. Visscher reported that any attempt to land was too dangerous, as the sea near the shore was everywhere full of rocks, without any sandy ground, thus imperilling both the safety of the men and of the casks. The officers and the second mates were summoned to the inevitable Council, when it was decided to weigh anchor directly, run to the east, as far as longitude 220°, and then shape their course northward.

Thus ended Tasman's visit to New Zealand. From 13th December 1642, to 6th January 1643, the Dutch Expedition was on the coast, and surveyed with wonderful accuracy many hundred miles of it. In all else attempted, however, nothing but the most miserable failure appears to have attended the efforts of the officers. What the real cause of the want of success was is hard to say. The Dutch Authorities were not at all satisfied with the work accomplished, and, in the Memorandum penned on the occasion of the return of the Expedition to Batavia, stated that the real situation and nature of the lands would require to be further ascertained. In the Instructions, too, given to the subsequent Expedition, Van Diemen speaks of Tasman as having been “somewhat remiss in investigating the situation, conformation and nature of the lands discovered, and of the natives inhabiting the same, and as regard to the main point, has left everything to be more closely inquired into by more industrious successors."

When the previous history of Tasman is taken into consideration, it is difficult to believe that the repeated failures on the New Zealand coast were due to any personal fear on his part. Rather are they to be traced to the peculiar powers given to the Council, which consisted of six officers associated with Tasman. This Council decided all matters relating to the progress of the voyage and the execution of the instructions, Tasman having only a deliberative and a page 14 casting vote. Disciplinary questions required the presence of the master boatswains; navigation questions, the presence of the second mates. What could a body of this kind do, where majority of votes reduced, almost to the level of the average of his sailors, the genius of the commander? Without reflecting on the ability and bravery of Tasman, the author thinks, that the terror inspired in the officers by the massacre of 19th December, prevented all attempts to land while anchored for about five days in Admiralty Bay, upset one after another the decisions arrived at by the Council, hurried the Expedition away when the question of the strait called for a settlement, stopped a landing on the Three Kings, pictured to the imagination the island as peopled with giants, and ultimately sent the Expedition away from New Zealand, without the refreshments which were so much needed by themselves, without the commercial information which was of such advantage to the Company, and without the geographical knowledge which was of such importance to the world.

Speaking, before we leave the work of this great man, upon the subject of the retention of the names given by Tasman, the author is compelled to admit that his countrymen have scarcely been fair to the Dutch Expedition. Staten Land is now New Zealand, Rocky Cape is Cape Foulwind, Murderers Bay is Golden Bay, Abel Tasman's Road is Admiralty Bay, Zeehaen Bight has no name, and Cape Booreels is now Cape Egmont. The only names given by Tasman now retained, are Steep Point, in the South Island, and Cape Maria van Diemen and the Three Kings Islands, in the North. Names, it is true, have been given indicative of Tasman's visit. We have Abel Head and Tasman Bay, but Tasman never saw the Head, nor did his ships sail in the Bay.

Of the names given in the North Island, the name of Pieter Booreel for the Cape, now known as Egmont, cannot claim to be retained, as Tasman only concluded the existence of such a Cape, he never saw it. The northern cape was called Maria van Diemen, after the wife of the Governor- page 15 General at Batavia. The name Three Kings was given to the islands off the north of New Zealand because Tasman anchored there on 5th and left on 6th January—Epiphany, a religious festival which commemorates the meeting of the three Magi with the infant Christ. The name New Zealand was not given to Staten Land, until Brouwer, later on in the year, proved that Staten Land to the south of South America was a small island, and no part of a continent stretching across to the site of Tasman's discovery.

Some very accurate and painstaking observations of Mr. T. F. Cheeseman on the Three Kings Islands enable us to fix with perfect confidence the various spots mentioned. The stream of water—the only one on the islands—falls over a cliff 200 feet high, “coming down in great plenty from a steep mountain" as Tasman said, into a little bay, Tasman Bay, into which the G.s.s. Hinemoa entered and found an excellent landing place “with the wind off shore." Tasman's chart shows that he anchored to the north of Great Island, in North-West Bay, where 40 fathoms of water is still recorded. “Halfway to the watering-place between a certain point and another large high rock or small island," where the boats got into trouble, will be between Great Island and Farmer Rocks.