Early Australian Voyages, by John Pinkerton

Voyage of Francis Pelsart to Australasia. 1628–29.

It has appeared very strange to some very able judges of voyages, that the Dutch should make so great account of the southern countries as to cause the map of them to be laid down in the pavement of the Stadt House at Amsterdam, and yet publish no descriptions of them. This mystery was a good deal heightened by one of the ships that first touched on Carpenter’s Land, bringing home a considerable quantity of gold, spices, and other rich goods; in order to clear up which, it was said that these were not the product of the country, but were fished out of the wreck of a large ship that had been lost upon the coast. But this story did not satisfy the inquisitive, because not attended with circumstances necessary to establish its credit; and therefore they suggested that, instead of taking away the obscurity by relating the truth, this story was invented in order to hide it more effectually. This suspicion gained ground the more when it was known that the Dutch East India Company from Batavia had made some attempts to conquer a part of the Southern continent, and had been repulsed with loss, of which, however, we have no distinct or perfect relation, and all that hath hitherto been collected in reference to this subject, may be reduced to two voyages. All that we know concerning the following piece is, that it was collected from the Dutch journal of the voyage, and having said thus much by way of introduction, we now proceed to the translation of this short history.

The directors of the East India Company, animated by the return of five ships, under General Carpenter, richly laden, caused, the very same year, 1628, eleven vessels to be equipped for the same voyage; amongst which there was one ship called the Batavia, commanded by Captain Francis Pelsart. They sailed out of the Texel on the 28th of October, 1628; and as it would be tedious and troublesome to the reader to set down a long account of things perfectly well known, I shall say nothing of the occurrences that happened in their passage to the Cape of Good Hope; but content myself with observing that on the 4th of June, in the following year 1629, this vessel, the Batavia, being separated from the fleet in a storm, was driven on the Abrollos or shoals, which lie in the latitude of 28 degrees south, and which have been since called by the Dutch, the Abrollos of Frederic Houtman. Captain Pelsart, who was sick in bed when this accident happened, perceiving that his ship had struck, ran immediately upon deck. It was night indeed; but the weather was fair, and the moon shone very bright; the sails were up; the course they steered was north-east by north, and the sea appeared as far as they could behold it covered with a white froth. The captain called up the master and charged him with the loss of the ship, who excused himself by saying he had taken all the care he could; and that having discerned this froth at a distance, he asked the steersman what he thought of it, who told him that the sea appeared white by its reflecting the rays of the moon. The captain then asked him what was to be done, and in what part of the world he thought they were. The master replied, that God only knew that; and that the ship was fast on a bank hitherto undiscovered. Upon this they began to throw the lead, and found that they had forty~eight feet of water before, and much less behind the vessel. The crew immediately agreed to throw their cannon overboard, in hopes that when the ship was lightened she might be brought to float again. They let fall an anchor however; and while they were thus employed, a most dreadful storm arose of wind and rain; which soon convinced them of the danger they were in; for being surrounded with rocks and shoals, the ship was continually striking.

They then resolved to cut away the mainmast, which they did, and this augmented the shock, neither could they get clear of it, though they cut it close by the board, because it was much entangled within the rigging; they could see no land except an island which was about the distance of three leagues, and two smaller islands, or rather rocks, which lay nearer. They immediately sent the master to examine them, who returned about nine in the morning, and reported that the sea at high water did not cover them, but that the coast was so rocky and full of shoals that it would be very difficult to land upon them; they resolved, however, to run the risk, and to send most of their company on shore to pacify the women, children, sick people, and such as were out of their wits with fear, whose cries and noise served only to disturb them. About ten o’clock they embarked these in their shallop and skiff, and, perceiving their vessel began to break, they doubled their diligence; they likewise endeavoured to get their bread up, but they did not take the same care of the water, not reflecting in their fright that they might be much distressed for want of it on shore; and what hindered them most of all was the brutal behaviour of some of the crew that made themselves drunk with wine, of which no care was taken. In short, such was their confusion that they made but three trips that day, carrying over to the island 180 persons, twenty barrels of bread, and some small casks of water. The master returned on board towards evening, and told the captain that it was to no purpose to send more provisions on shore, since the people only wasted those they had already. Upon this the captain went in the shallop, to put things in better order, and was then informed that there was no water to be found upon the island; he endeavoured to return to the ship in order to bring off a supply, together with the most valuable part of their cargo, but a storm suddenly arising, he was forced to return.

The next day was spent in removing their water and most valuable goods on shore; and afterwards the captain in the skiff, and the master in the shallop, endeavoured to return to the vessel, but found the sea run so high that it was impossible to get on board. In this extremity the carpenter threw himself out of the ship, and swam to them, in order to inform them to what hardships those left in the vessel were reduced, and they sent him back with orders for them to make rafts, by tying the planks together, and endeavour on these to reach the shallop and skiff; but before this could be done, the weather became so rough that the captain was obliged to return, leaving, with the utmost grief, his lieutenant and seventy men on the very point of perishing on board the vessel. Those who were got on the little island were not in a much better condition, for, upon taking an account of their water, they found they had not above 40 gallons for 40 people, and on the larger island, where there were 120, their stock was still less. Those on the little island began to murmur, and to complain of their officers, because they did not go in search of water, in the islands that were within sight of them, and they represented the necessity of this to Captain Pelsart, who agreed to their request, but insisted before he went to communicate his design to the rest of the people; they consented to this, but not till the captain had declared that, without the consent of the company on the large is land, he would, rather than leave them, go and perish on board the ship. When they were got pretty near the shore, he who commanded the boat told the captain that if he had anything to say, he must cry out to the people, for that they would not suffer him to go out of the boat. The captain immediately attempted to throw himself overboard in order to swim to the island. Those who were in the boat prevented him; and all that he could obtain from them was, to throw on shore his table-book, in which line wrote a line or two to inform them that he was gone in the skiff to look for water in the adjacent islands.

He accordingly coasted them all with the greatest care, and found in most of them considerable quantities of water in the holes of the rocks, but so mixed with the sea-water that it was unfit for use; and therefore they were obliged to go farther. The first thing they did was to make a deck to their boat, because they found it was impracticable to navigate those seas in an open vessel. Some of the crew joined them by the time the work was finished; and the captain having obtained a paper, signed by all his men, importing that it was their desire that he should go in search of water, he immediately put to sea, having first taken an observation by which he found they were in the latitude of 28 degrees 13 minutes south. They had not been long at sea before they had sight of the continent, which appeared to them to lie about sixteen miles north by west from the place they had suffered shipwreck. They found about twenty-five or thirty fathoms water; and as night drew on, they kept out to sea; and after midnight stood in for the land, that they might be near the coast in the morning. On the 9th of June they found themselves as they reckoned, about three miles from the shore; on which they plied all that day, sailing sometimes north, sometimes west; the country appearing low, naked, and the coast excessively rocky; so that they thought it resembled the country near Dover. At last they saw a little creek, into which they were willing to put, because it appeared to have a sandy bottom; but when they attempted to enter it, the sea ran so high that they were forced to desist.

On the 10th they remained on the same coast, plying to and again, as they had done the day before; but the weather growing worse and worse, they were obliged to abandon their shallop, and even throw part of their breath overboard, because it hindered them from clearing themselves of the water, which their vessel began to make very fast. That night it rained most terribly, which, though it gave them much trouble, afforded them hopes that it would prove a great relief to the people they had left behind them on the islands. The wind began to sink on the 11th; and as it blew from the west-south-west, they continued their course to the north, the sea running still so high that it was impossible to approach the shore. On the 12th, they had an observation, by which they found themselves in the latitude of 27 degrees; they sailed with a south-east wind all that day along the coast, which they found so steep that there was no getting on shore, inasmuch as there was no creek or low land without the rocks, as is commonly observed on seacoasts; which gave them the more pain because within land the country appeared very fruitful and pleasant. They found themselves on the 13th in the latitude of 25 degrees 40 minutes; by which they discovered that the current set to the north. They were at this time over against an opening; the coast lying to the north-east, they continued a north course, but found the coast one continued rock of red colour all of a height, against which the waves broke with such force that it was impossible for them to land.

The wind blew very fresh in the morning on the 14th, but towards noon it fell calm; they were then in the height of 24 degrees, with a small gale at east, but the tide still carried them further north than they desired, because their design was to make a descent as soon as possible; and with this view they sailed slowly along the coast, till, perceiving a great deal of smoke at a distance, they rowed towards it as fast as they were able, in hopes of finding men, and water, of course. When they came near the shore, they found it so steep, so full of rocks, and the sea beating over them with such fury, that it was impossible to land. Six of the men, however, trusting to their skill in swimming, threw themselves into the sea and resolved to get on shore at any rate, which with great difficulty and danger they at last effected, the boat remaining at anchor in twenty-five fathoms water. The men on shore spent the whole day in looking for water; and while they were thus employed, they saw four men, who came up very near; but one of the Dutch sailors advancing towards them, they immediately ran away as fast as they were able, so that they were distinctly seen by those in the boat. These people were black savages, quite naked, not having so much as any covering about their middle. The sailors, finding no hopes of water on all the coast, swam on board again, much hurt and wounded by their being beat by the waves upon the rocks; and as soon as they were on board, they weighed anchor, and continued their course along the shore, in hopes of finding some better landing-place.

On the 25th, in the morning, they discovered a cape, from the point of which there ran a ridge of rocks a mile into the sea, and behind it another ridge of rocks. They ventured between them, as the sea was pretty calm; but finding there was no passage, they soon returned. About noon they saw another opening, and the sea being still very smooth, they entered it, though the passage was very dangerous, inasmuch as they had but two feet water, and the bottom full of stones, the coast appearing a flat sand for about a mile. As soon as they got on shore they fell to digging in the sand, but the water that came into their wells was so brackish that they could not drink it, though they were on the very point of choking for thirst. At last, in the hollows of the rocks, they met with considerable quantities of rainwater, which was a great relief to them, since they had been for some days at no better allowance than a pint a-piece. They soon furnished themselves in the night with about eighty gallons, perceiving, in the place where they landed, that the savages had been there lately, by a large heap of ashes and the remains of some cray-fish.

On the 16th, in the morning, they returned on shore, in hopes of getting more water, but were disappointed; and having now time to observe the country, it gave them no great hopes of better success, even if they had travelled farther within land, which appeared a thirsty, barren plain, covered with ant-hills, so high that they looked afar off like the huts of negroes; and at the same time they were plagued with flies, and those in such multitudes that they were scarce able to defend themselves. They saw at a distance eight savages, with each a staff in his hand, who advanced towards them within musket-shot; but as soon as they perceived the Dutch sailors moving towards them, they fled as fast as they were able. It was by this time about noon, and, perceiving no appearance either of getting water, or entering into any correspondence with the natives, they resolved to go on board and continue their course towards the north, in hopes, as they were already in the latitude of 22 degrees 17 minutes, they might be able to find the river of Jacob Remmescens; but the wind veering about to the north-east, they were not able to continue longer upon that coast, and therefore reflecting that they were now above one hundred miles from the place where they were shipwrecked, and had scarce as much water as would serve them in their passage back, they came to a settled resolution of making the best of their way to Batavia, in order to acquaint the Governor–General with their misfortunes, and to obtain such assistance as was necessary to get their people off the coast.

On the 17th they continued their course to the north-east, with a good wind and fair weather; the 18th and 19th it blew hard, and they had much rain; on the 20th they found themselves in 19 degrees 22 minutes; on the 22nd they had another observation, and found themselves in the height of 16 degrees 10 minutes, which surprised them very much, and was a plain proof that the current carried them northwards at a great rate; on the 27th it rained very hard, so that they were not able to take an observation; but towards noon they saw, to their great satisfaction, the coasts of Java, in the latitude of 8 degrees, at the distance of about four or five miles. They altered their course to west-north-west, and towards evening entered the gulf of an island very full of trees, where they anchored in eight fathoms water, and there passed the night; on the 28th, in the morning, they weighed, and rowed with all their force, in order to make the land, that they might search for water, being now again at the point of perishing for thirst. Very happily for them, they were no sooner on shore than they discovered a fine rivulet at a small distance, where, having comfortably quenched their thirst, and filled all their casks with water, they about noon continued their course for Batavia.

On the 29th, about midnight, in the second watch, they discovered an island, which they left on their starboard. About noon they found themselves in the height of 6 degrees 48 minutes. About three in the afternoon they passed between two islands, the westernmost of which appeared full of cocoa trees. In the evening they were about a mile from the south point of Java, and in the second watch exactly between Java and the Isle of Princes. The 30th, in the morning, they found themselves on the coast of the last-mentioned island, not being able to make above two miles that day. On July 1st the weather was calm, and about noon they were three leagues from Dwaersindenwegh, that is, Thwart-the-way Island; but towards the evening they had a pretty brisk wind at north-west, which enabled them to gain that coast. On the 2nd, in the morning, they were right against the island of Topershoetien, and were obliged to lie at anchor till eleven o’clock, waiting for the sea-breeze, which, however, blew so faintly that they were not able to make above two miles that day. About sunset they perceived a vessel between them and Thwart-the-way Island, upon which they resolved to anchor as near the shore as they could that night, and there wait the arrival of the ship. In the morning they went on board her, in hopes of procuring arms for their defence, in case the inhabitants of Java were at war with the Dutch. They found two other ships in company, on board one of which was Mr. Ramburg, counsellor of the Indies. Captain Pelsart went immediately on board his ship, where he acquainted him with the nature of his misfortune, and went with him afterwards to Batavia.

We will now leave the captain soliciting succours from the Governor–General, in order to return to the crew who were left upon the islands, among whom there happened such transactions as, in their condition, the reader would little expect, and perhaps will hardly credit! In order to their being thoroughly understood, it is necessary to observe that they had for supercargo one Jerom Cornelis, who had been formerly an apothecary at Harlem. This man, when they were on the coast of Africa, had plotted with the pilot and some others to run away with the vessel, and either to carry her into Dunkirk, or to turn pirates in her on their own account. This supercargo had remained ten days on board the wreck, not being able in all that time to get on shore. Two whole days he spent on the mainmast, floating to and fro, till at last, by the help of one of the yards, he got to land. When he was once on shore, the command, in the absence of Captain Pelsart, devolved of course upon him, which immediately revived in his mind his old design, insomuch that he resolved to lay hold of this opportunity to make himself master of all that could be saved out of the wreck, conceiving that it would be easy to surprise the captain on his return, and determining to go on the account — that is to say, to turn pirate in the captain’s vessel. In order to carry this design into execution, he thought necessary to rid themselves of such of the crew as were not like to come into their scheme; but before he proceeded to dip his hands in blood, he obliged all the conspirators to sign an instrument, by which they engaged to stand by each other.

The whole ship’s company were on shore in three islands, the greatest part of them in that where Cornelis was, which island they thought fit to call the burying-place of Batavia. One Mr. Weybhays was sent with another body into an adjacent island to look for water, which, after twenty days’ search, he found, and made the appointed signal by lighting three fires, which, however, were not seen nor taken notice of by those under the command of Cornelis, because they were busy in butchering their companions, of whom they had murdered between thirty and forty; but some few, however, got off upon a raft of planks tied together, and went to the island where Mr. Weybhays was, in order to acquaint him with the dreadful accident that had happened. Mr. Weybhays having with him forty~five men, they all resolved to stand upon their guard, and to defend themselves to the last man, in case these villains should attack them. This indeed was their design, for they were apprehensive both of this body, and of those who were on the third island, giving notice to the captain on his return, and thereby preventing their intention of running away with his vessel. But as this third company was by much the weakest, they began with them first, and cut them all off, except five women and seven children, not in the least doubting that they should be able to do as much by Weybhays and his company. In the meantime, having broke open the merchant’s chests, which had been saved out of the wreck, they converted them to their own use without ceremony.

The traitor, Jerom Cornelis, was so much elevated with the success that had hitherto attended his villainy, that he immediately began to fancy all difficulties were over, and gave a loose to his vicious inclinations in every respect. He ordered clothes to be made of rich stuffs that had been saved, for himself and his troop, and having chosen out of them a company of guards, he ordered them to have scarlet coats, with a double lace of gold or silver. There were two minister’s daughters among the women, one of whom he took for his own mistress, gave the second to a favourite of his, and ordered that the other three women should be common to the whole troop. He afterwards drew up a set of regulations, which were to be the laws of his new principality, taking to himself the style and title of Captain–General, and obliging his party to sign an act, or instrument, by which they acknowledged him as such. These points once settled, he resolved to carry on the war. He first of all embarked on board two shallops twenty-two men, well armed, with orders to destroy Mr. Weybhays and his company; and on their miscarrying, he undertook a like expedition with thirty-seven men, in which, however, he had no better success; for Mr. Weybhays, with his people, though armed only with staves with nails drove into their heads, advanced even into the water to meet them, and after a brisk engagement compelled these murderers to retire.

Cornelis then thought fit to enter into a negotiation, which was managed by the chaplain, who remained with Mr. Weybhays, and after several comings and goings from one party to the other, a treaty was concluded upon the following terms — viz., That Mr. Weybhays and his company should for the future remain undisturbed, provided they delivered up a little boat, in which one of the sailors had made his escape from the island in which Cornelis was with his gang, in order to take shelter on that where Weybhays was with his company. It was also agreed that the latter should have a part of the stuffs and silks given them for clothes, of which they stood in great want. But, while this affair was in agitation, Cornelis took the opportunity of the correspondence between them being restored, to write letters to some French soldiers that were in Weybhays’s company, promising them six thousand livres apiece if they would comply with his demands, not doubting but by this artifice he should be able to accomplish his end.

His letters, however, had no effect; on the contrary, the soldiers to whom they were directed carried them immediately to Mr. Weybhays. Cornelis, not knowing that this piece of treachery was discovered, went over the next morning, with three or four of his people, to carry to Mr. Weybhays the clothes that had been promised him. As soon as they landed, Weybhays attacked them, killed two or three, and made Cornelis himself prisoner. One Wonterloss, who was the only man that made his escape, went immediately back to the conspirators, put himself at their head, and came the next day to attack Weybhays, but met with the same fate as before — that is to say, he and the villains that were with him were soundly beat.

Things were in this situation when Captain Pelsart arrived in the Sardam frigate. He sailed up to the wreck, and saw with great joy a cloud of smoke ascending from one of the islands, by which he knew that all his people were not dead. He came immediately to an anchor, and having ordered some wine and provisions to be put into the skiff, resolved to go in person with these refreshments to one of these islands. He had hardly quitted the ship before he was boarded by a boat from the island to which he was going. There were four men in the boat, of whom Weybhays was one, who immediately ran to the captain, told him what had happened, and begged him to return to his ship immediately, for that the conspirators intended to surprise her, that they had already murdered 125 persons, and that they had attacked him and his company that very morning with two shallops.

While they were talking the two shallops appeared; upon which the captain rowed to his ship as fast as he could, and was hardly got on board before they arrived at the ship’s side. The captain was surprised to see men in red coats laced with gold and silver, with arms in their hands. He demanded what they meant by coming on board armed. They told him he should know when they were on board the ship. The captain replied that they should come on board, but that they must first throw their arms into the sea, which if they did not do immediately, he would sink them as they lay. As they saw that disputes were to no purpose, and that they were entirely in the captain’s power, they were obliged to obey. They accordingly threw their arms overboard, and were then taken into the vessel, where they were instantly put in irons. One of them, whose name was John Bremen, and who was first examined, owned that he had murdered with his own hands, or had assisted in murdering, no less than twenty~seven persons. The same evening Weybhays brought his prisoner Cornelis on board, where he was put in irons and strictly guarded.

On the 18th of September, Captain Pelsart, with the master, went to take the rest of the conspirators in Cornelis’s island. They went in two boats. The villains, as soon as they saw them land, lost all their courage, and fled from them. They surrendered without a blow, and were put in irons with the rest. The captain’s first care was to recover the jewels which Cornelis had dispersed among his accomplices: they were, however, all of them soon found, except a gold chain and a diamond ring; the latter was also found at last, but the former could not be recovered. They went next to examine the wreck, which they found staved into an hundred pieces; the keel lay on a bank of sand on one side, the fore part of the vessel stuck fast on a rock, and the rest of her lay here and there as the pieces had been driven by the waves, so that Captain Pelsart had very little hopes of saving any of the merchandise. One of the people belonging to Weybhays’s company told him that one fair day, which was the only one they had in a month, as he was fishing near the wreck, he had struck the pole in his hand against one of the chests of silver, which revived the captain a little, as it gave him reason to expect that something might still be saved. They spent all the 19th in examining the rest of the prisoners, and in confronting them with those who escaped from the massacre.

On the 20th they sent several kinds of refreshments to Weybhays’s company, and carried a good quantity of water from the isle. There was something very singular in finding this water; the people who were on shore there had subsisted near three weeks on rainwater, and what lodged in the clefts of the rocks, without thinking that the water of two wells which were on the island could be of any use, because they saw them constantly rise and fall with the tide, from whence they fancied they had a communication within the sea, and consequently that the water must be brackish; but upon trial they found it to be very good, and so did the ship’s company, who filled their casks with it.

On the 21st the tide was so low, and an east-south-east wind blew so hard, that during the whole day the boat could not get out. On the 22nd they attempted to fish upon the wreck, but the weather was so bad that even those who could swim very well durst not approach it. On the 25th the master and the pilot, the weather being fair, went off again to the wreck, and those who were left on shore, observing that they wanted hands to get anything out of her, sent off some to assist them. The captain went also himself to encourage the men, who soon weighed one chest of silver, and some time after another. As soon as these were safe ashore they returned to their work, but the weather grew so bad that they were quickly obliged to desist, though some of their divers from Guzarat assured them they had found six more, which might easily be weighed. On the 26th, in the afternoon, the weather being fair, and the tide low, the master returned to the place where the chests lay, and weighed three of them, leaving an anchor with a gun tied to it, and a buoy, to mark the place where the fourth lay, which, notwithstanding their utmost efforts, they were not able to recover.

On the 27th, the south wind blew very cold. On the 28th the same wind blew stronger than the day before; and as there was no possibility of fishing in the wreck for the present, Captain Pelsart held a council to consider what they should do with the prisoners: that is to say, whether it would be best to try them there upon the spot, or to carry them to Batavia, in order to their being tried by the Company’s officers. After mature deliberation, reflecting on the number of prisoners, and the temptation that might arise from the vast quantity of silver on board the frigate, they at last came to a resolution to try and execute them there, which was accordingly done; and they embarked immediately afterwards for Batavia.

Remarks.

This voyage was translated from the original Dutch by Thevenot, and printed by him in the first volume of his collections. Pelsart’s route is traced in the map of the globe published by Delisle in the year 1700.

As this voyage is of itself very short, I shall not detain the reader with many remarks; but shall confine myself to a very few observations, in order to show the consequences of the discovery made by Captain Pelsart. The country upon which he suffered shipwreck was New Holland, the coast of which had not till then been at all examined, and it was doubtful how far it extended. There had indeed been some reports spread with relation to the inhabitants of this country, which Captain Pelsart’s relation shows to have been false; for it had been reported that when the Dutch East India Company sent some ships to make discoveries, their landing was opposed by a race of gigantic people, with whom the Dutch could by no means contend. But our author says nothing of the extraordinary size of the savages that were seen by Captain Pelsart’s people; from whence it is reasonable to conclude that this story was circulated with no other view than to prevent other nations from venturing into these seas. It is also remarkable that this is the very coast surveyed by Captain Dampier, whose account agrees exactly with that contained in this voyage. Now though it be true, that from all these accounts there is nothing said which is much to the advantage either of the country or its inhabitants, yet we are to consider that it is impossible to represent either in a worse light than that in which the Cape of Good Hope was placed, before the Dutch took possession of it; and plainly demonstrated that industry could make a paradise of what was a perfect purgatory while in the hands of the Hottentots. If, therefore, the climate of this country be good, and the soil fruitful, both of which were affirmed in this relation, there could not be a more proper place for a colony than some part of New Holland, or of the adjacent country of Carpentaria. I shall give my reasons for asserting this when I come to make my remarks on a succeeding voyage. At present I shall confine myself to the reasons that have induced the Dutch East India Company to leave all these countries unsettled, after having first shown so strong an inclination to discover them, which will oblige me to lay before the reader some secrets in commerce that have hitherto escaped common observation, and which, whenever they are as thoroughly considered as they deserve, will undoubtedly lead us to as great discoveries as those of Columbus or Magellan.

In order to make myself perfectly understood, I must observe that it was the finding out of the Moluccas, or Spice Islands, by the Portuguese, that raised that spirit of discovery which produced Columbus’s voyage, which ended in finding America; though in fact Columbus intended rather to reach this country of New Holland. The assertion is bold, and at first sight may appear improbable; but a little attention will make it so plain, that the reader must be convinced of the truth of what I say. The proposition made by Columbus to the State of Genoa, the Kings of Portugal, Spain, England, and France, was this, that he could discover a new route to the East Indies; that is to say, without going round the Cape of Good Hope. He grounded this proposition on the spherical figure of the earth, from whence he thought it self-evident that any given point might be sailed to through the great ocean, either by steering east or west. In his attempt to go to the East Indies by a west course, he met with the islands and continent of America; and finding gold and other commodities, which till then had never been brought from the Indies, he really thought that this was the west coast of that country to which the Portuguese sailed by the Cape of Good Hope, and hence came the name of the West Indies. Magellan, who followed his steps, and was the only discoverer who reasoned systematically, and knew what he was doing, proposed to the Emperor Charles V. to complete what Columbus had begun, and to find a passage to the Moluccas by the west; which, to his immortal honour, he accomplished.

When the Dutch made their first voyages to the East Indies, which was not many years before Captain Pelsart’s shipwreck on the coast of New Holland, for their first fleet arrived in the East Indies in 1596, and Pelsart lost his ship in 1629 — I say, when the Dutch first undertook the East India trade, they had the Spice Islands in view: and as they are a nation justly famous for the steady pursuit of whatever they take in hand, it is notorious that they never lost sight of their design till they had accomplished it, and made themselves entirely masters of these islands, of which they still continue in possession. When this was done, and they had effectually driven out the English, who were likewise settled in them, they fixed the seat of their government in the island of Amboyna, which lay very convenient for the discovery of the southern countries; which, therefore, they prosecuted with great diligence from the year 1619 to the time of Captain Pelsart’s shipwreck; that is, for the space of twenty years.

But after they removed the seat of their government from Amboyna to Batavia, they turned their views another way, and never made any voyage expressly for discoveries on that side, except the single one of Captain Tasman, of which we are to speak presently. It was from this period of time that they began to take new measures, and having made their excellent settlement at the Cape of Good Hope, resolved to govern their trade to the East Indies by these two capital maxims: 1. To extend their trade all over the Indies, and to fix themselves so effectually in the richest countries as to keep all, or at least the best and most profitable part of, their commerce to themselves; 2. To make the Moluccas, and the islands dependent on them, their frontier, and to omit nothing that should appear necessary to prevent strangers, or even Dutch ships not belonging to the Company, from ever navigating those seas, and consequently from ever being acquainted with the countries that lie in them. How well they have prosecuted the first maxim has been very largely shown in a foregoing article, wherein we have an ample description of the mighty empire in the hands of their East India Company. As for the second maxim, the reader, in the perusal of Funnel’s, Dampier’s, and other voyages, but especially the first, must be satisfied that it is what they have constantly at heart, and which, at all events, they are determined to pursue, at least with regard to strangers; and as to their own countrymen, the usage they gave to James le Maire and his people is a proof that cannot be contested.

Those things being considered, it is very plain that the Dutch, or rather the Dutch East India Company, are fully persuaded that they have already as munch or more territory in the East Indies than they can well manage, and therefore they neither do nor ever will think of settling New Guinea, Carpentaria, New Holland, or any of the adjacent islands, till either their trade declines in the East Indies, or they are obliged to exert themselves on this side to prevent other nations from reaping the benefits that might accrue to them by their planting those countries. But this is not all; for as the Dutch have no thoughts of settling these countries themselves, they have taken all imaginable pains to prevent any relations from being published which might invite or encourage any other nation to make attempts this way; and I am thoroughly persuaded that this very account of Captain Pelsart’s shipwreck would never have come into the world if it had not been thought it would contribute to this end, or, in other words, would serve to frighten other nations from approaching such an inhospitable coast, everywhere beset with rocks absolutely void of water, and inhabited by a race of savages more barbarous, and, at the same time, more miserable than any other creatures in the world.

The author of this voyage remarks, for the use of seamen, that in the little island occupied by Weybhays, after digging two pits, they were for a considerable time afraid to use the water, having found that these pits ebbed and flowed with the sea; but necessity at last constraining them to drink it, they found it did them no hurt. The reason of the ebbing and flowing of these pits was their nearness to the sea, the water of which percolated through the sand, lost its saltness, and so became potable, though it followed the motions of the ocean whence it came.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/travel/early_australian_voyages/chapter1.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:05