The Brouwer Route was a 17th-century route that was discovered and used by ships sailing from the African Cape of Good Hope to the Dutch East Indies base of Java. The route took ships south from the Cape (which is at 34° latitude south) into the Roaring Forties (at 40-50° latitude south), then east across the Indian Ocean, before turning northeast for Java. Thus it took advantage of the strong westerly winds for which the Roaring Forties are named, greatly increasing travel speed. The problem with the route, however, was that there was no accurate way at the time to determine longitude. The sighting of either Amsterdam Island or Saint Paul Island was the cue for ships to change direction and head north. However this was reliant on the captain's expertise.
The route was devised by the Dutch sea explorer Hendrik Brouwer in 1611, and found to halve the duration of the journey from Europe to Java, compared to the previous Arab and Portuguese monsoon route, which involved following the coast of East Africa northwards, sailing through the Mozambique Channel and then across the Indian Ocean, sometimes via India. By 1616 the Brouwer Route was compulsory for sailors of the Dutch East India Company (VOC).
The English trialled the route in 1621, which they called the Southern route, and initially thought it a great success, but the second English ship to use the route, the Tryall, incorrectly judged the longitude, sailed too far east before turning north, and was wrecked on the Tryal Rocks off the coast of Australia in May 1622. The English then avoided the route for the next two decades.
The Brouwer Route played a major role in the discovery of the west coast of Australia, and many ships that were wrecked along that coast, including Tryall (1622) with a loss of 93 lives, Batavia (1629), Vergulde Draeck (1656), Zuytdorp (1712) and Zeewijk (1727). In 1696, Willem de Vlamingh explored the Australian coast while looking for survivors of the Ridderschap van Holland which disappeared in 1694 with its 300 crew and two passengers.
- Amsterdam Island is at S37.8267°/E77.5547° and St. Paul Island is at S38.7300°/E77.5222°; Java lies at S7.4917°/E110.0044°.
- The Seynbrief, Sailing Toward Destiny, National Library of Australia.
- Parthesius, Robert (2010). Dutch Ships in Tropical Waters: The Development of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) Shipping Network in Asia 1595-1660. Amsterdam University Press. p. 114. ISBN 9053565175. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
- De Witt, Dennis (2013). The Unfortunate Dutchman. Nutmeg Publishing. ISBN 1301681180. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
- Appleyard, R. T. and Toby Manford (1979). The Beginning: European Discovery and Early Settlement of Swan River Western Australia. Nedlands, Western Australia: University of Western Australia Press. ISBN 0-85564-146-0.
- Henderson, J. (1993). Phantoms of the Tryall. Perth: St. George Books. ISBN 0-86778-053-3.