willem janszoon blaeuw

Willem Janszoon

Not to be confused with Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638), a contemporary Dutch cartographer

Willem Janszoon (c. 1570 - 1630), Dutch navigator and colonial governor, is the first European known to have seen the coast of Australia. His name is sometimes abbreviated to Willem Jansz. (with or without the full stop). Willem Janszoon was most probably born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Early life

Nothing is known of Willem Janszoon's early life. He is first recorded as entering into the service of the Oude compagnie, one of the predecessors of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), as a mate aboard the Hollandia, part of the second fleet dispatched by the Dutch to the Dutch East Indies in 1598. On May 5 1601, Jansz again sailed for the East Indies as master of the Lam, in the Ram, Schaep, and Lam fleet of Joris van Spilbergen.

He sailed from the Netherlands for the East Indies for the third time on 18 December 1603 as captain of the Duyfken (or Duijfken, meaning "Little Dove"), one of twelve ships of the great fleet of Steven van der Hagen. Once in the Indies, Willem Janszoon was sent to search out other outlets for trade, particularly in "the great land of Nova Guinea and other East and Southlands."


On November 18 1605, the Duyfken sailed from Bantam to the coast of western New Guinea. He then crossed the eastern end of the Arafura Sea, without seeing the Torres Strait, into the Gulf of Carpentaria, and on February 26 1606 made landfall at the Pennefather River on the western shore of Cape York in Queensland, near the modern town of Weipa. This is the first recorded European landfall on the Australian continent. Willem Janszoon proceeded to chart some 320 km of the coastline, which he thought to be a southerly extension of New Guinea.

Finding the land swampy and the people inhospitable (ten of his men were killed on various shore expeditions), at Cape Keerweer ("Turnabout"), south of Albatross Bay, Willem Janszoon headed home and arrived back at Bantam in June 1606. He called the land he had discovered "Nieu Zelandt" after the Dutch province of Zeeland but this name was not adopted, and was later used by Abel Tasman to name New Zealand.

The Duyfken was actually in Torres Strait in March 1606, a few weeks before Torres sailed through it. Willem Janszoon returned to the Netherlands in the belief that the south coast of New Guinea was joined to the land along which he coasted, and Dutch maps reproduced this error for many years to come. Although there have been many suggestions that earlier navigators from China, France or Portugal may have discovered parts of Australia, the Duyfken is the first European vessel known to have done so.

Second voyage to Australia

Janszoon reported that on 31 July 1618 he had landed on an island at 22° South with a length of 22 miles and 240 miles SSE of the Sunda Strait. This is generally interpreted as a description of the peninsula from Point Cloates to North West Cape on the Western Australian coast, which Janszoon presumed was an island without fully circumnavigating it.

Political life

Janszoon served in the Netherlands East Indies for several periods (1603-11, 1612-16, including a period as governor of Fort Henricus on Solor, and 1618-28, during which time was served as admiral of the Dutch fleet and as governor of Banda (1623-27). He was awarded a gold chain worth 1,000 guilders in 1619 for his part in capturing four ships of the British East India Company which had aided the Javanese in their defence of the town of Jakarta against the Dutch. He returned to Batavia in June 1627 and soon afterwards, as admiral of a fleet of eight vessels, went on a diplomatic mission to India. On 4 December 1628 he sailed for Holland and on 16 July 1629 reported on the state of the Indies at The Hague. He was probably now about 60 years of age and willing to retire from his strenuous and successful life in the service of his country. Nothing is known of his last days.


The original journal and log made during Janszoon's 1606 voyage have been lost. The Duyfken chart, which shows the location of the first landfall in Australia by the Duyfken, had a better fate. It was still in existence in Amsterdam when Hessel Gerritsz made his Map of the Pacific in 1622, and placed the Duyfken geography upon it, thus providing us with the first map that contains any part of Australia; it was still in existence about 1670, when a copy was made, which eventually went to the Imperial Library in Vienna and remained buried there for 200 years. The map is part of the Atlas Blaeu Van der Hem, brought to Vienna in 1730 by Prince Eugene of Savoy.







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