Dirk Hartog

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Dirk Hartog's plate in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Map of Shark Bay area showing Dirk Hartog Island and Cape Inscription

Dirk Hartog (baptized 30 October 1580, Amsterdam – buried 11 October 1621, Amsterdam) was a 17th-century Dutch sailor and explorer. Dirk Hartog's expedition was the second European group to land on Australian soil, He was the first to leave behind an artifact to record his visit, the Hartog plate. His name is sometimes alternatively spelled Dirck Hartog or Dierick Hartochsz. Ernest Giles referred to him as Theodoric Hertoge.[1] Born into a seafaring family, at the age of 30 he received his first ship's command, and spent several years engaged in successful trading ventures in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas.[2]

He then gained employment with the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1616, and was appointed master of a ship (the Eendracht, meaning "Concord" or "Unity") in a fleet voyaging from the Netherlands to the Dutch East Indies. Setting sail in January 1616 in the company of several other VOC ships, Hartog and the Eendracht became separated from the others in a storm, and arrived independently at the Cape of Good Hope (later to become the site of Cape Town, South Africa).

Leaving there, Hartog set off across the Indian Ocean for Batavia (present-day Jakarta), utilising (or perhaps blown off course by) the strong westerly winds known as the "Roaring Forties" which had been earlier noted by the Dutch navigator Henderik Brouwer as a quicker route to Java. On 25 October 1616, at approximately 26° latitude south, Hartog and crew came unexpectedly upon "various islands, which were, however, found uninhabited." He made landfall at an island off the coast of Shark Bay, Western Australia, which is now called Dirk Hartog Island after him. His was the second recorded European expedition to land on the Australian continent (having been preceded by Willem Janszoon), but the first to do so on the western coastline.[3]

Hartog spent three days examining the coast and nearby islands. The area was named Eendrachtsland after his ship, but this name has not endured. When he left he affixed a pewter plate to a post, now known as the Hartog plate. On the plate he had etched a record of his visit to the island. Its inscription (translated from the original Dutch) read:

  • 1616 On 25 October arrived the ship Eendracht, of Amsterdam: Supercargo Gilles Miebais of Liege, skipper Dirch Hatichs of Amsterdam. on 27 d[itt]o. she set sail again for Bantam. Deputy supercargo Jan Stins, upper steersman Pieter Doores of Bil. In the year 1616.

Finding nothing of interest, Hartog continued sailing northwards along this previously undiscovered coastline of Western Australia, making nautical charts up to about 22° lat. south. He then left the coast and continued onwards to Batavia, eventually arriving safely in December 1616, some five months after his expected arrival.

In 1619 Frederik de Houtman, in the VOC ship Dordrecht, and Jacob d'Edel, in another VOC ship Amsterdam, sighted land on the Australian coast near present day Perth which they called d'Edelsland. After sailing northwards along the coast they made landfall in Eendrachtsland. In his journal, Houtman identified these coasts with Marco Polo's land of Beach, or Locach, as shown on maps of the time such as that of Petrus Plancius and Jan Huyghen van Linschoten.[4]

Eighty years later in 1696 the Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh landed on the island and by chance found the plate, which now lay half-buried in sand. He replaced it with a new plate which reproduced Hartog's original inscription and added notes of his own, and took Hartog's original back to Amsterdam, where it may now be seen in the Rijksmuseum.[3]

In 2000 the Hartog plate was temporarily brought to Australia as part of an exhibition at the Sydney Maritime Museum. This led to suggestions that the plate, considered important as the oldest-known written artefact from Australia's European history, should be acquired for an Australian museum, but the Dutch authorities have made it clear that the plate is not for sale.

Dirk Hartog left the employ of the VOC upon his return to Amsterdam in 1617, resuming private trading ventures in the Baltic.

In 1985 he was honoured on a postage stamp, issued by Australia Post, depicting his ship.[5]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Giles, Ernest (1889). Australia twice traversed: the romance of exploration, being a narrative compiled from the journals of five exploring expeditions into and through central South Australia and Western Australia from 1872 to 1876 2. Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington. ISBN 0-86824-015-X. 
  2. ^ Playford, Phillip E. (2005). "Hartog, Dirk (1580–1621)". In Christopher Cuneen. Australian Dictionary of Biography. Supplementary Volume 1580-1980. Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne University Press. Retrieved 6 Feb 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Dirk Hartog Landing Site 1616 - Cape Inscription Area, Dirk Hartog Island, WA, Australia". Australian Heritage Database - National Heritage List. Commonwealth of Australia Department of the Environment. Retrieved 6 Feb 2014. 
  4. ^ Letter of Commandeur Frederik de Houtman to the Chamber Amsterdam, 7 October 1620, Algemeen Rijksarchief, The Hague, 982, 1620 II, fol147-151, fol.148r; quoted in P. A. Leupe, De Reizen der Nederlanders naar het Zuidland of Nieuw-Holland in de 17e en 18e eeuw, Amsterdam, G. Hulst van Keulen, 1868, p.29, 32; cited in Frederik Willem Stapel, De Oostindische Compagnie en Australië, Amsterdam, P.N. van Kampen, 1937, pp.11 en 28.
  5. ^ "1985 Issues". Australian On-line Stamp Catalogue. Retrieved 25 Mar 2014. 

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