What did Abel Tasman accomplish?

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Abel Tasman statue Hobart

Abel Tasman is famous for being the first European to reach Van Diemen's island (now Tasmania), and New Zealand. He was also the first to sight the Fiji islands. He helped to map large areas of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

On the right is a photo taken of the statue of Abel Tasman, near Salamanca Place in Hobart.

Key events in his life

  • born 1603 in the Netherlands
  • married Jannetjie Tjaers in 1631
  • served as a merchant in the (Dutch) United East India Company
  • sighted Fiji islands in 1643
  • appointed master of a small ship, the Mocha in 1634
  • appointed member of the Council of Justice at Batavia (now Jakarta)
  • found guilty of hanging one of his men without trial, subsequently suspended from office, fined and made to pay compensation
  • formally reinstated in 1651
  • died in Batavia in 1659

Sighting Tasmania

According to a sign near the statue shown above, these were the instructions Tasman had:

"All continents and islands, which you shall discover, touch at, and set foot on, you will take possession of on behalf of their high mightinesses of the States General of the United Provinces, the which uninhabited regions of or in such countries as have no sovereign, may be done by erecting a memorial stone, or by planting our prince flag in sign of actual occupation seeing that such lands justly belong to the discoverer and first occupier."

On 24 November 1642 Tasman sighted the west coast of Tasmania near Macquarie Harbour. He named the island Van Diemen's Land after Antonie van Diemen, who was the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies.

Mount Zeehan and Mount Heemskirk on the west coast, both sighted by Tasman, are named after his ships, "Zeehaen" and "Heemskerck".

Later Tasman tried to land at the Forestier Peninsula but the rough seas made it too difficult. Eventually the ship's carpenter swam to shore and planted a flag. In this way possession of the land was claimed by Europeans on 3 December 1642.

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