NEW ZEALAND – Abel Janszoon Tasman (1603 – 1659)

“Dit land lijkt alsof je een heel mooi land”

“This land looks like being a very beautiful land.” – Abel Tasman – 1642

Abel Janszoon Tasman was born in Lutjegast, Netherlands in 1603. He was 33 years old when he travelled to Batavia, Indonesia in the employment of the Dutch East India Company. In 1639, Abel was 2nd in demand for an exploring expedition of the north pacific.

In 1842, he was in command of a voyage to the ‘provinces of Beach and Terra Australis’, the land in the extreme south. Two ships took part in this adventure, the ‘Zeehaen’ and the ‘Heemskerck”.

On the 24th November 1842, Abel sighted the east coast what would become his namesake, Tasmania, in Australia. He named the land ‘Van Diemen’ after Antonio van Diemen, the Governor-General of the Dutch West Indies. Bad weather made it impossible for them to step ashore so the ship’s carpenter swam ashore to plant the Dutch flag into the soil.

The plan was to head north from ‘Van Diemen’ but a more favourable wind led them east. Abel would later say that it was only his compass that kept him alive during those long days before sighting New Zealand.

On the 23rd December 1642, the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand was discovered. These men were the first Europeans to be in New Zealand waters. He named the land ‘Staten Landt’ and believed it was attached to South America!

They continued north and followed the coastline into Cook Strait. Thinking that the strait was a bight, he named it after one of his ships, the Zeehaen.

In geography, bight has two meanings. A bight can be simply a bend or curve in any geographical feature—usually a bend or curve in the line between land and water.
Alternatively, the term can refer to a large (and often only slightly receding) bay. It is distinguished from a sound by being shallower. Traditionally explorers defined a bight as a bay that could be sailed out of on a single tack in a square-rigged sailing vessel, regardless of the direction of the wind (typically meaning the apex of the bight is less than 25 degrees from the edges). – Courtesy of Wikipedia.

It was here, while collecting water that they were surrounded by Maori in their waka’s. What followed has been re-created in many unrealistic art pieces but what we do know is that four members of the Dutch crew were killed. The Maori didn’t come through unharmed either, the number of their dead unrecorded. As the Dutch ships fled, Abel named the area ‘Murderer’s Bay’ but we now know it as Golden Bay.

Only two areas today have their original names from that era. Cape Mana van Diemen and the Three Kings Island.

In 1645, the Dutch cartographers renamed ‘Staten Landt’ to Nova Zeelandia after the Dutch province of Zeeland. Sadly though, Abel’s expedition was listed as a failure. He failed to set foot on their new lands, failed to set up new trading exchanges and failed to secure any useful shipping routes. Apparently a more persistent explorer would be needed in the future.

Abel Tasman died a wealthy landowner in October 1659. He was survived by his second wife and a daughter from his first marriage.

As with many explorers, Tasman’s name has been honoured in many ways. These include:

* the Australian island Tasmania, renamed after him, formerly Van Diemen’s land. It includes features such as:

* the Tasman Peninsula
* the Tasman Bridge
* the Tasman Highway
* the former passenger/vehicle ferry Abel Tasman
* and, indirectly, two marsupial species are named after Tasman:
the Tasmanian Devil
the Tasmanian Tiger
* a plant genus
* Tasmannia
* the Tasman Sea

In New Zealand:
* the Tasman Glacier
* Tasman Lake
* the Tasman River
* Mount Tasman
* the Abel Tasman National Park
* Tasman Bay
* the Tasman District
* Abel Tasman Drive, in Takaka.
* the Abel Tasman Memorial in Takaka.
* The Able Tasmans – an indie band from Auckland, New Zealand.
*Courtesy of Wikipedia

Nova Zeelandia was not visited again by any other Europeans for another 100 years or so. The next was Captain James Cook who anglicised or ‘englishing’ the name to New Zealand.

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