Matthijs Quast has become known for an unsuccessful expedition to the Pacific.
In the early seventeenth century rumours abounded that two islands could be found in the Pacific east of Japan. These islands were said to be very rich, and were therefore called Rica de Oro (Rich in Gold) and Rica de Plata (Rich in Silver). The VOC, urged by one of its merchants in Japan, Willem Verstegen, wanted to try to find these islands.
Matthijs Quast was chosen to lead this expedition. He was to go to the area by way of the Philippines, and should also explore the areas north of China, in particular Korea and Tartary (Siberia). He was given two small ships. Quast himself sailed on the Engel (Angel), commanded by Lucas Albertsen, while second-in-command Abel Tasman was commander of the Gracht (Canal).
Quast left Batavia on 2 June 1639, and reached the open ocean from Luzon on 10 July. For several months he crisscrossed the part of the ocean where the islands were supposed to be. Quast was very eager to find the islands, as can be seen from the fact that not only he raised the bonus for the first person to sight land, but also installed severe punishments for falling asleep on watch: one month's pay and fifty lashings for the first offence, double that amount for the second, and death penalty for the third. It was all to no avail, no lands of gold and silver were found.
On 25 October Quast abandoned his search. His ships were in a rather bad shape at the start of the expedition (the VOC would use its good ships for trading voyages with sure profit, not for expeditions like Quast's), and were getting even worse. The crew, which had not had fresh food for a long time, also was decimated by illness. Because of this, Quast found it wise not to go to Tartary as his original orders were, but to depart for Formosa immediately. By the time he reached Fort Zeelandia, on 24 November, 41 of his 90 men had died.
The expedition was not successful since the area he chose is a large stretch of open water. His farthest north was 42° (the latitude of southern Hokaido) and farthest west was 177° (almost to the international date line). The Bonin Islands had been discovered, and the coasts of Japan mapped in more detail than before, but that was all. No trading possibilities or other things that would interest the VOC had been found. The VOC sent out a second expedition, led by Maarten Gerritsz Vries, to the same region. De Vries discovered Yeso (Hokkaidō), Sakhalin and the southernmost of the Kuril Islands. Tasman would later make two famous voyages to the seas around Australia. He died at the age of 75
- V.D. Roeper & G.J.D. Wildeman: Ontdekkingsreizen van Nederlanders (1590-1650). Utrecht/Antwerpen: Kosmos - Z&K Uitgevers, no year.
- B.J. Slot: Abel Tasman and the discovery of New Zealand. Amsterdam: Otto Cramwinckel, 1992.
- Derek Hayes,Historical Atlas of the North Pacific Ocean, 2001
- Original text copied from: http://www.win.tue.nl/~engels/discovery/quast.html with permission.