Dirk Hartog

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Dirk Hartog, (1580-1621) Dutch mariner, was the first European to land on the coast of Western Australia. His name has been variously spelled but the above has been accepted as the English standard.

A ship owner and trader in Holland, in 1615, Hartog was commissioned to command the vessel Eendracht on its maiden voyage to the East Indies with a cargo of gold bullion. He was ordered to take the route favoured by the Dutch; that is once he left Cape of Good Hope to bear to the south until he picked up the prevailing westerlies which would power him across the southern Indian Ocean before he turned north for Java and the Indies. It was inevitable that someone would under-estimate the distance travelled in the Roaring Forties and turn northward too late; and Hartog was that mariner, finding himself off the coast of Western Australia.

He landed on what is now called Dirk Hartog Is. near Shark Bay and erected a timber post bearing a pewter plate with an inscription which (translated) reads:

1616, 25 October, is here arrived the ship the Eendracht of Amsterdam, the upper-merchant Gillis Miebais of Liege, skipper Dirck Hatichs of Amsterdam; the 27th ditto set sail again for Bantam, the under-merchant Jan Stins, the uppersteersman Pieter Dookes van Bill, Anno 1616.

He then went on with his business as ordered and arrived back in The Netherlands in October 1618. He died in 1621.

In 1697 an expedition commanded by Willem de Vlamingh was travelling slowly up the coast and discovered the inscribed plate, lying on the ground beside the rotted post. Vlamingh replaced it with another with the same inscription and added a record of his own visit. Hartog’s plate is now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Reference: Australian Dictionary of Biography online

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