Following the decline of Spain in the 16th century, the Dutch expanded their trading activities in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). They wanted to explore and chart the waters off west coast Australia.
When Abel Tasman sailed with his two armed merchant vessels and crew of 110 men from Batavia, he was instructed to take possession of all continents and islands which he discovered.
On 1642 he sighted a land mass unknown to any European nation and gave it the name of ‘Anthony van Diemens Landt’ in honour of the Governor General of Batavia. A landing party came ashore on November 24 at what is now Blackman Bay and a second party took possession for the Dutch by planting a flag.
The ships then sailed eastward and discovered ‘Staten Landt’ (New Zealand) and other Pacific Islands.
There is no mention of Tasman entering Macquarie Harbour - perhaps like other later navigators he did not realise what was beyound The Gates.
Tasman died in 1659 - almost 150 years before Captain Cook charted the Australian coast.
For many years, Tasmania was known as Van Diemen’s Land and the west coast of Tasmania still reflects the remarkable voyages of those early Dutch navigators.
North of the entrance to Macquarie Harbour though the entrance to ‘Hell’s Gates’ (see later postings) are the peaks which still bear the names of Abel Tasman's ships - Heemskerck and the smaller Fluyt Zeehaen. Other Tasmanian coastal features still retain the Dutch names.
Pics: statue of Abel Tasman and his two ships (Hobart waterfront)