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Australian History

November 24, 1642 – Dutch explorer Abel Tasman reaches Tasmania, naming it Van Diemen’s Land


Abel Tasman

Abel Tasman

Abel Janszoon Tasman was a Dutch seafarer and explorer born in 1603 in the village of Lutjegast, Netherlands.

In 1634 Tasman joined the Dutch East India Company and, after gaining further experience and promotions, was ordered to explore the south-east waters in order to find a new sea trade route to Chile in South America.

On 24 November 1642, Tasman reached a previously unknown island on his voyage past the Great South Land, or New Holland, as the Dutch called Australia.

In his ships’ log, he recorded: “In the afternoon, about 4 o’clock…we saw…the first land we have met with in the South Sea…very high…and not known to any European nation”.

Tasman named this land Antony Van Diemen’s Land in honour of the High Magistrate, or Governor-General of Batavia.

Although he saw none of the indigenous people, he noted the presence of smoke in several locations, while his crew heard human voices.

It is believed that this first sighting was made at what is now Cape Sorell, on the western coast of Tasmania.

The island’s name was changed to Tasmania in 1855, over sixty years after British colonists settled the Australian continent.

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