Abel Tasman joined the Dutch East India Company and on his first assignment, he was sent to Batavia (modern-day Jakarta) in 1633.
In 1634, he was promoted to the rank of first mate of the ship, ‘Weesp’, and soon thereafter he became skipper of the ship ‘Mocha’.
He spent nine years guarding the South Pacific from pirates and smugglers. He also made several trade missions to Asia, including Japan, Cambodia, and Formosa (present-day Taiwan).
In 1642, he was commissioned to lead an expedition to present-day Australia and South America in search for an ocean passage across the Pacific to Chile. He was provided with two small ships for this voyage, the Zeehaen and the Heemskerck.
The expedition sailed to Mauritius and then headed east at higher latitude than the Dutch had explored ever before, which caused them to bypass their destination of Australia. A land mass was spotted on November 24, 1642 and Tasman named it ‘Anthoni van Diemens Landt’ (modern-day Tasmania) after Batavia’s Governor General.
Traveling further eastward he came upon New Zealand and named it Stated Landt, mistaking it to be connected to the land mass, named, Staten Island, at the tip of South America.
They came ashore at Whariwharangi Bay on the South Island of present-day New Zealand where they made their initial contact with the Maoris. A brutal encounter with Maori native Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri led to the deaths of four Dutch seamen and Tasman went on to name the place Moordenaars Bay, translating to Murderers Bay.
The voyage continued north along the west coast but failed to take note of Cook Strait that separated the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Consequently, Tasman believed New Zealand to be one complete island.
In December of 1642, Tasman and his men celebrated the first Christmas in New Zealand while taking shelter from a storm. They continued up the west side of the North Island and discovered a cape on January 4, 1643 which they named Cape Maria Van Diemen after the Governor’s wife.
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On January 21, 1643 they anchored in Tonga to stock up on supplies. The expedition continued on past Fiji but did not stop to explore the land.
In April of 1643 the expedition reached New Guinea and then began the return journey landing in Batavia on June 15, 1643.
The Dutch East India Company was unsatisfied with Tasman’s lack of effort in exploring the lands he discovered and failing to discover a passageway that could be used as a shipping route to South America. Despite this, the proposal for a subsequent voyage was rejected, leaving New Zealand and Tasmania untouched by Europeans for a century.
In 1644, Tasman was sent to the northern coastline of Australia to search for another passage to South America. During this time, they mapped the coast from Torres Strait to Port Hedland.
The Dutch East India Company promoted him to the rank of skipper commander. He held a position within the Council of Justice at Batavia until 1648.
In 1648, an intoxicated Tasman attempted to unjustly hang two of his sailors citing insubordination. One of the men almost died and Tasman was tried by the Council of Justice, receiving a suspension without pay for 11 months.
He retired in 1653 and remained settled in Batavia where he captained a small cargo ship. He was the owner of 288 acres of land and hence a very wealthy man.
Personal Life & Legacy
Tasman married to Claesgie Heyndrix in the early 1630. They had one daughter, named, Claesjen, before Claesgie’s death in 1631.
He married Jannetje (Joanna) Tjaerts in 1632.
He died on 10 October 1659, from unknown causes, at his home in Batavia.
The present day island of Tasmania is named in his honor. Places within Tasmania also bear his name. These include: the Tasman Sea, the Tasman Peninsula, the Tasman Highway, the Tasman Bridge, and the Abel Tasman ferry.
In New Zealand, the Abel Tasman National Park, the Tasman Lake, the Tasman River, the Tasman Glacier, Mount Tasman, and the Tasman Bay have been named in his honor.