Posts Tagged ‘Dutch East India Company’

Dirk Hartog died in 1621 lasting a short 41 years on this earth. In that brief time he sailed the world and became the second white man to step foot on the mysterious Great Southern Land.

So how did this man from humble stock in the far distant Netherlands end up in our story of discovery?

You could say from the combination of a directive of Dutch colonial administrator Hendrik Brouwer and a little “hot air”. Well, not quite!

In 1611 Hendrik Brouwer devised a new route to Batavia (Java) for the Dutch East India Company – one that cut the sail time from South Africa by half – from 12 months to a mere 6 months.  This route took advantage of the “roaring forties” deep in the southern hemisphere – these strong westerly winds existed between 40 and 50 degrees south in close proximity to South Africa.  This route made the then common route to Batavia via the African coast line and Ceylon redundant and to an extent made a collision with the Great Southern land inevitable (calculating longitude was an imprecise science at this time).

Young Dirk Hartog came from a seafaring family and cut his stripes as the Captain of a small trading Vessel the Dolphyn from around 1615. He soon joined the (Dutch) United East India Company (established in 1602 to trade in Spices in East Asia) and eventually was appointed to command the ship the Eendracht on a voyage from the Netherlands via South Africa to Batavia.

The first leg of his journey of discovery commenced on the 23rd January 1616 from the Netherlands. On the way to South Africa he was blown off course and separated from the other ships in his fleet. This is a similar fate, we believe, that could have beset him on the second leg (or a miscalculation of longitude), as he followed the now proscribed southerly Brouwer route to Batavia.

Pushed forward by the roaring forties past where he should have headed North, the Captain of the Eendracht came upon athe tip of a small island on 25 October 1616 just off the coast of today’s Western Australia. The island was approximately 80 km long and 14 km wide and uninhabited. It was a barren island pummelled by the vast Indian Ocean.

Hartog landed at the northern end of the island, now known as Cape Inscription. For three days he explore, but found little. One action that left a mark on history was his leaving a commemorative plate that recorded his visit. It was carefully attached to a wooden post (the plate was retrieved some 40 years later by another Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh).

Suitably unimpressed by what he had seen Hartog  headed North, charting the coast line to the North West Cape.  From there he proceeded to Macassar with his cargo of money (where he lost 15 men in an altercation with the locals) and then visited other trading centres in the East Indies returning home in 1618.

This second visit by a European explorer had its significance. Following quickly from the William Janszoon the Great Southern Land was finally being revealed….

SIDE NOTE: The Eendracht

This is a little note for the often unsung hero of these adventures. The ship. In this case the Eendracht. She was built in 1655 destined for the Navy of the United Provinces (precursor of the Netherlands). In 1665 she served in the Second Anglo-Dutch war where she boasted 73 guns and a crew of 200, engaging the British in the Battle of Lowestoft. But the Eendracht only just outlasted Dirk Hartog. She managed only two trips from the Port of Texel in the Netherlands to the East Indies. On the 13 May 1622 on a local voyage west off Ambon Island she was wrecked with a cargo of coins – to this day she has not been discovered. In the ships honour, up until the end of the 19th century, the coast of Australia parallel to Dirk Hartogs Island was affectionately called Eendrachtsland.  As well for a brief time the Great Southern land was labelled on maps as tLandt van de Eendracht (the Land of the Eendracht).

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Dutch Bavaria 17th CenturyWe have reached the early 1600’s on our journey in search of the Land Down Under…

No longer is Asia a lonely place for Europeans. The seas are gradually being tamed, but what of the locals and the competition?

The year 1602 is especially significant for it bought a new power into the Indian Ocean. And it came came forth with all the fury of an angry storm sweeping across the Indian Ocean..

This was the year the Dutch East India Company was created. This company was effectively granted what could be called “extra governmental authority”. It was a government within a government, created for national, political and economic purposes. Perhaps the first ever private army, fully owned and operated by the Dutch public.

The Dutch East India Company charter presented the company with a monopoly over trade in the Indian Ocean, with the rights to make war and peace, administer justice, coin money and levy troops. With huge profits to be made controlling the trade between East and West  (spices, opium, Chinese porcelain etc.) armed protection became a feature of the Dutch East India Company (and the British East India Company). Indeed,the company soon controlled an armed force that dwarfed the one back at home.

It was estimated that at its height the Dutch East India Company possessed some 50,000 civilian employees, an army of 40 warships, up to 20,000 sailors and perhaps 10,000 solders.

The Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, as it was known locally, was granted a 21 year monopoly on trade in the Indian Ocean. The rational for such a monopoly, it must be said, was sound. Single voyages were high risk, and such risks were best shared. Also, prices need to be managed. To much product at one time could see prices tumble. So supply and demand needed to be balanced.

So in 1602 stock was issued for the first time. This raised some 6.5m guilders from the public (a huge sum) with the company also able to issue bonds to finance its short term funding requirements (creating a template for the modern stock exchange) .

Within a few years Dutch Trading Posts began to be established across Asia. The first was in Indonesia.

By 1610 it was thought necessary to appoint a Governor General for Asia, and soon after the Dutch East India Company began to flex its muscle to achieve its economic ambitions.  In Jakarta they expelled Banten forces at gun point to establish Batavia and a centre for the companies activities in Asia. They also deported the native inhabitants of the Banda Islands (source of nutmeg) with an ambition of using slave labour.

By the mid 1600’s the Company was well on the way to dominating Indian Ocean trade, with trading posts established from Iran, to India, South Africa and Siam (Thailand), to name but a few…

With the scent of profit in the air, the waters north of the Great Southern Land were transforming into an economic and political battleground. Not a time for the faint hearted, nor for the locals, caught on the wrong side of the ledger…

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