The last period with which we wish to deal, lies between Dampier’s arrival and Cook’s first visit to these regions (1688-1769), and is of secondary importance so far as Dutch discoveries are concerned. We may just mention Willem de Vlamingh’s voyage of 1696-1697, and Maerten van Delft’s of 1705; Gonzal’s expedition (1756) is not quite without significance, but the results obtained in these voyages will not bear comparison with those achieved by the expeditions of the preceding period. Besides this, the English navigator Dampier and afterwards Captain Cook now began to inscribe their names on the rolls of history, and those names quite legitimately outshine those of the Dutch navigators of the eighteenth century. The palmy days of Dutch discovery fell in the seventeenth century.
In some such fashion the history of the Dutch wanderings and explorations on the coasts of Australia might be divided into chronological periods. The desire of being clear has, however, led me to adopt another mode of treatment in this Introduction: I shall one after another discuss the different coast-regions discovered and touched at by the Netherlanders.
The Netherlanders in the gulf of carpentaria[*]
[* As regards the period extending from 1595-1644, see also my Life of Tasman, Ch. XII, pp. 88ff.]
We may safely say that the information concerning the Far East at the disposal of those Dutchmen who set sail for India in 1595, was exclusively based on what their countryman Jan Huygen van Linschoten, had told them in his famous Itinerario. And as regards the present Australia this information amounted to little or nothing.
Unacquainted as he was with the fact that the south-coast of Java had already been circumnavigated by European navigators, van Linschoten did not venture decidedly to assert the insular nature of this island. It might be connected with the mysterious South-land, the Terra Australis, the Terra Incognita, whose fantastically shaped coast-line was reported to extend south of America, Africa and Asia, in fact to the southward of the whole then known world. This South-land was a mysterious region, no doubt, but this did not prevent its coast-lines from being studded with names equally mysterious: the charts of it showed the names of Beach [*], the gold-bearing land (provincia aurifera), of Lucach, of Maletur, a region overflowing with spices (scatens aromatibus). Forming one whole with it, figured Nova Guinea, encircled by a belt of islands.
[* That the Dutch identified Beach with the South-land discovered by them in 1616, is proved by No. XI A of the Documents (p. 14).]