Early Australian Voyages: Pelsart, Tasman, Dampier eBook

John Pinkerton
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 151 pages of information about Early Australian Voyages.

On February 6th, being in 17 degrees 19 minutes of south latitude, and in the longitude of 201 degrees 35 minutes, we found ourselves embarrassed by nineteen or twenty small islands, every one of which was surrounded with sands, shoals, and rocks.  These are marked in the charts by the name of Prince William’s Islands, or Heemskirk’s Shallows.  On the 8th we were in the latitude of 15 degrees 29 minutes, and in the longitude of 199 degrees 31 minutes.  We had abundance of rain, a strong wind from the north-east, or the north-north-east, with dark cold weather.  Fearing, therefore, that we were run farther to the west than we thought ourselves by our reckoning, and dreading that we should fall to the south of New Guinea, or be thrown upon some unknown coast in such blowing misty weather, we resolved to stand away to the north, or to the north-north-west, till we should arrive in the latitude of 4, 5, or 6 degrees south, and then to bear away west for the coast of New Guinea, as the least dangerous way that we could take.

It is very plain from hence, that Captain Tasman had now laid aside all thoughts of discovering farther, and I think it is not difficult to guess at the reason; when he was in this latitude, he was morally certain that he could, without further difficulty, sail round by the coast of New Guinea, and so back again to the East Indies.  It is therefore extremely probable that he was directed by his instructions to coast round that great southern continent already discovered, in order to arrive at a certainty whether it was joined to any other part of the world, or whether, notwithstanding its vast extent, viz., from the equator to 43 degrees of south latitude, and from the longitude of 123 degrees to near 190 degrees, it was, notwithstanding, an island.  This, I say, was in all appearance the true design of his voyage, and the reason of it seems to be this:  that an exact chart being drawn from his discoveries, the East India Company might have perfect intelligence of the extent and situation of this now-found country before they executed the plan they were then contriving for preventing its being visited or farther discovered by their own or any other nation; and this too accounts for the care taken in laying down the map of this country on the pavement of the new stadthouse at Amsterdam; for as this county was henceforward to remain as a kind of deposit or land of reserve in the hands of the East India Company, they took this method of intimating as much to their countrymen, so that, while strangers are gaping at this map as a curiosity, every intelligent Dutchman may say to himself, “Behold the wisdom of the East India Company.  By their present empire they support the authority of this republic abroad, and by their extensive commerce enrich its subjects at home, and at the same time show us here what a reserve they have made for the benefit of posterity, whenever, through the vicissitudes to which all sublunary things are liable, their present sources of power and grandeur shall fail.”

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Early Australian Voyages: Pelsart, Tasman, Dampier from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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