Abel Tasman

Abel Tasman (1603 – 1659) Dutch navigator and explorer
It was a Dutch Protestant, Abel Tasman, “the man who made the longest voyage since Magellan”–who was the first European to sight Tasmania and New Zealand. A devout Christian, he sailed from Batavia on 14 August 1642. Instructions to Skipper Commander Abel Jansz Tasman “destined for the discovery and exploration of the unknown Southland” included an enumeration of other famous explorers–Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama–who had preceded him. “What numberless multitudes of blind heathen have by the same been introduced to the blessed light of the Christian religion!”

It was a Dutch Protestant, Abel Tasman, “the man who made the longest voyage since Magellan”–who was the first European to sight Tasmania and New Zealand. A devout Christian, he sailed from Batavia on 14 August 1642. Instructions to Skipper Commander Abel Jansz Tasman “destined for the discovery and exploration of the unknown Southland” included an enumeration of other famous explorers–Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama–who had preceded him. “What numberless multitudes of blind heathen have by the same been introduced to the blessed light of the Christian religion!” Naturally, the Council at Batavia prayed that in addition to finding heathen peoples, Tasman would also discover some “invaluable treasures and profitable trade connections” to make the trip worthwhile. No matter how mixed the motives, Tasman (and his crew of two ships) was sent out with “the blessing of the Ruler of all things”, with the prayer that, in His mercy, He would “endow [him] with manly courage in the execution of the intended discovery, and may grant [him] a safe return”.

“May God Almighty”, he wrote in his journal, “vouchsafe His blessings on this work”. After ten months at sea, he arrived back in Batavia. “God be praised and thanked for this happy voyage”, he noted in his journal. Tasman made a second voyage in 1644, when he charted the coast of Australia from Cape York Peninsula west to Willems River in the centre of the west coast.

In spite of Tasman’s discoveries, the Dutch shareholders, who were motivated by “uncommon profit” above the treasures of the heathen, were dissatisfied because he did not bring back glittering reports of gold or spices. So Tasman did not complete his charting of the Australian coast, but by the end of Tasman’s voyages, the Dutch had charted the Australian coast from the Cape York west and south to the east end of the Great Australian Bight and southern Tasmania. However, their closing statement on Australia was that “there was no good to be done there”.

http://www.chr.org.au/fpbooks/SL/slhs4.html

In 1642 the Dutch seafarer and explorer Abel Tasman made his great voyage from Batavia. As he sailed he wrote in his journal, “May God Almighty vouchsafe His blessing on this work.” Some 10 months later, when he returned to Batavia after navigating a considerable portion of Tasmania’s southern coast, Tasman wrote in his diary, “God be praised and thanked for this happy voyage.”

Although William Dampier, our first English visitor, is often spoken of as a rascal and a pirate, after his voyage to Western Australia in 1699 he wrote a preface to his famous work, A Voyage to New Holland, using these words:

“But this satisfaction I am sure of having, that the things themselves in the discovery of which I have been employed, are most worthy of our diligentest search and inquiry; being the various and wonderful works of God in different parts of the world.

“And however unfit a person I may be in other respects to have undertaken this task, yet at least I have given a faithful account, and have found some things undiscovered by any before, and which may at least be some assistance and direction to better qualified persons who shall come after me.

“I returned to England in the Canterbury East-India ship, for which wonderful deliverance from so many and great dangers I think myself bound to return continual thanks to Almighty God; whose divine providence if it shall please to bring me safe again to my native country from my present intended voyage.”

http://www.newsweekly.com.au/articles/2008mar01_a.html

Whilst Abel Tasman was not an Australian, he does form part of Australia’s Christian heritage.

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