Clear skies over Jakarta!

As you can see from this painting by Hendrik Jacobsz, it was possible in 1650 to see the mountains behind Jakarta from the harbour. Mountains which are about 60 km inland, are not far past the town of Bogor, and stand up to 3000 metres above sea level.

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View of Batavia from the harbour.  Hendrik Jacobz, 1650, Rijksmuseum

With the millions that now live in Jakarta and the the air pollution produced by its cars and adjacent factories, these mountains are never seen, except for once a year during or just after Ramadan. The factories are closed for weeks over the Ramadan holiday. Many people and their cars have left for their home villages in Java and this Covid year many people have just stayed at home, leaving the streets deserted. With one good rain there are  suddenly clear skies over Jakarta!

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View south towards the mountains from Jakarta with Gunung Gede and Gunung Pangrango on the left and Gunung Salak on the right.      Photo by Cun Cun

The highest point on Gunung Salak is 2211 metres and it creates a micro-climate around Bogor as rain clouds build up over the mountain during the day and then at mid-afternoon torrential rain falls on Bogor.  Salak is the name of a tropical fruit with scaly skin, however according to Sundanese tradition, the name was derived from the Sanskrit word Salaka which means silver. Gunung Salak can then be translated to Silver Mountain. I have climbed the mountain from the south and camped near the crater rim. It was a beautiful trek up through terraced rice fields, vegetable gardens, fruit trees, and then jungle on the way to the summit.


The breached volcano of Gunung Salak seen from Bogor.        Photo by Ehamburg

Gunung Pangrango is the highest of the three volcanoes at 3019 metres. The name Pangrango is thought to be originated from two ancient Sundanese words Pang and Rango which means “That which huffs and puffs” referring to the past volcanic activity of this mountain. I have camped and slept on the very top of the peak — and at this height it was very, very, cold.

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A view of Gunung Pangrango taken from Gunung Gede at sunset.     Photo by Delima Putri


Gunung Pangrango seen from near the Bogor Botanic Gardens,  J.C.Rappard, 1880, Tropenmuseum

Here is Gunung Gede seen from the south side near Sukabumi with Gunung Pangrango on the left. Gede means big so this is clearly the big mountain. I have climbed to the rim of the volcanic crater and it is still active as it puffs steam and sulphur fumes.


Gunung Gede seen from the south near Sukabumi.      Photo from Wikipedia


Gunung Pangarango and the crater rim on Gunung Gede.    Photo by Fahri Riski Hamdani

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Gunung Gede flowing lava. Franz Wilhelm Junghung, 1853, KITLV

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Historic Maps in Marble

The new Amsterdam City Hall was completed in 1655. This remarkable building which was built on 13,659 wooden piles at a cost 8.5 million guilders, is now the Royal Palace and still dominates the Dam Square today. The relatively simple exterior of the city hall is stikingly different to the exuberant Baroque style of the interior, with its huge allegorical paintings and marble reliefs derived from the Bible and classical mythology.

62 Dam Stadhuis, Gerrit Berckheyde, 1672, Rijksmueum

Dam Stadhuis, Gerrit Berkhheyde, 1672, Rijksmuseum

At the centre of the building is the high-ceilinged Burgerzaal, which is a rare example for this period of a large non-religious architectural space. When the new city hall was completed, a large world map in two hemispheres composed of marble and copper was laid on the floor of the Groote Burgerzaal to celebrate the trade supremacy of the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company.


The Groote Burgerzaal in the Dam Stadhuis, 1661

Intended to impress visitors, the floor was a symbol in marble of the extension of Dutch seapower across the world. The Eastern hemisphere details the regions explored by the ships of the Dutch East India Company including the exploration of Hollandia Nova and the results of Tasman’s voyages.


Plan of the marble floor of the Groote Burgerzaal, 1661

Over a century this cartographical work of art was badly damaged by people walking over the floor and the two hemispheres were later filled in with plain marble slabs without any pictorial representation. This important cartographical monument was lost to posterity, however we have an image and a description from 1661:

One sees here in the centre, on the floor of the Groote Burgerzaal, two half spheres, bisected at the axis and a celestial hemisphere, of which each at the centre line or diameter is a length of approximately two-and-twenty and in its circumference approximately six-and-sixty feet. On the one terrestrial hemisphere, towards the east in the Burgerzaal, the contours of the outermost limits of the three parts of the world, to wit Europe, Asia and Africa, as also even the islands, promontories, rivers and oceans, and parts of Hollandia Nova are shown very ingeniously by red and other coloured inlaid stone.

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Detail of the Eastern Henisphere showing Hollandia Nova and Van Diemens Land

In 1746 the Amsterdam Government commissioned Jacob Martenesz to execute a new world map of two hemispheres in marble to replace those of 1655. For reasons unknown the work was not used as intended and remained forgotten in a store-room of the City Hall. It was not until 1953 that the forgotten marble maps were finally installed in their intended place in the Groote Burgerzaal. The eastern hemisphere shows Nova Hollandia, including Terra Concordia (Eendrachslandt) and Terra Diemensis (Van Diemens Landt) all based on the 1644 Tasman Map.

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The Groote Burgerzaal and its marble maps

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Detail of the 1746 marble map of Nova Hollandia in the Groote Burgerzaal. Photo Ian Burnet

Commissioned by the Principal Librarian William Ifould, the marble mosaic map in the vestibule of Mitchell Library was intended to celebrate Abel Tasman, the early Dutch discoveries of Australia and the Tasman Map of 1644,  just as these voyages were celebrated in marble on the floor of the Groote Burgerzaal in Amsterdam.

Work commenced in 1939 by the Melocco Brothers of Annandale who as master craftsmen took eighteen months and an incalculable degree of skill, knowledge and patience to create one of the most immpressive mosaic floors in the world. A ‘must see’ on your next visit to the State Library of NSW

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The marble mosaic Tasman Map in the vestibule of the Mitchell Library.  State Library NSW

Rosenberg Front Cover Image

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1934 London to Melbourne Air Race – The Flight of KLM Uiver

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The 1934 air race from London to Melbourne was sponsored by Melbourne businessman and philanthropist Sir Macpherson Robertson, founder of the MacRobertson Confectionery Company. The race was initiated as part of the Melbourne and Victorian Centenary celebrations. An exquisite gold trophy, cash prizes of £15,000, and gold medals for all crew and passengers who reached Melbourne were provided by Robertson. He also wanted safety to be a priority.

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Photo of a working model of the DC-2 aircraft and map  (Ian Burnet)

KLM had made its first flight to the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) as early as the 1920s. By the mid-1930s the route — which had long-since become the most distant intercontinental route — had long since proven its success.

KLM entered a 14-seat Douglas DC-2 called the Uiver (Stork). This was run as a commercial flight, carrying three passengers (two Dutch bankers; Pieter Gilissen, Roelof Domenie and German aviatrix and journalist Thea Rasche) and 25,000 letters. KLM did the full 22 stop-over version of the race as shown on the dashed line.

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Map showing the route of the Speed Race by Grosvenor House  and the Handicap Race by the Uiver

Just 300km from Melbourne, the Uiver became lost at night in an electrical storm. The people of Albury came to the aid of the plane, in what is now a legendary story and the Uiver was able to make a landing on Albury Racecourse.

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Artist’s impression of the Uiver in an electric storm

Race headquarters in Melbourne asked Albury newspaper sub-editor, Clifton Mott, to flash a light in Morse code. Mott met with Municipal Electrical Engineer, Lyle Ferris and they bumped into District Postal Inspector, Reg Turner, who knew Morse code. All three went to the Albury electrical sub-station where they signalled A-L-B-U-R-Y in Morse code by turning the town’s street lights on and off.

Arthur Newnham, the 2CO Radio announcer, called for cars to go to the Albury Racecourse to light a makeshift runway using their headlights to guide the plane to land, as there was no airport in Albury. About 80 cars arrived. Remarkably, Newnham’s broadcast went out at 12:54 am, and after circling the racecourse twice and dropping parachute flares, the Uiver was safely on the ground by 1:17 am!

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A plaque commemorating the event was created in the Netherlands and donated to the people of Albury.

The DH 88 COMET named Grosvenor House was first to arrive at Melbourne, crossing the finishing line at Flemington racecourse at 3:34 pm on 23rd October 1934, a record time in the air of 70 hours, 54 minutes, 18 seconds.

After its forced landing at Albury the Uiver was freed from the mud on the morning of the 24th October, and minus two crew, passengers and cargo, was able to take off and fly to Melbourne to finish the race in second place overall, taking the handicap prize, despite the dramatic events of the night before. The Uiver’s flying time was 90 hours, 18 minutes, 51 seconds.


The return of the Uiver to Schipol Airport

A month later, the Uiver was greeted with great pomp at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam . Enormous grandstands were set up on the grounds for the ceremony. On 21 November, the Uiver landed at Schiphol to the cheers of thousands of spectators. There was no shortage of memorabilia to commemorate the victory. Books, placards, pins, a song, epic poems, spoons, and plaques — nothing went too far.



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SIGNALS – Tasman Map Book Review


History Underfoot by Jeffrey Mellefont

Like me, many Signals readers will have entered the State Library of NSW through the northern portico of the Mitchell Library and then crossed the vestibule to the muted reading room that’s so solemn with generations of scholarship. Every time we do, we tread the cool marble and terrazzo of the entrance floor, but – if your like me – on most visits we scarcely register the huge map of an earlier, incompletely charted Australia that’s reproduced beneath our feet.

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Northern  facade of the Mitchell Library – drawn by Simon Fieldhouse

The details are finely delineated by brass lines inset into marble in a medium that might be as much cloissoné as it is mosaic – details such as the radiating compass roses or the elegant little cameos of sailing ships, or annotations in copperplate Dutch. If we’ve paused we’ve probably noted the signage telling us it’s Abel Tasman’s map … and then marched straight on into the reading room.

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The Mitchell Library Vestibule and the marble mosaic Tasman Map – State Library NSW

Author Ian Burnet would like us to realise that the beautiful reproduction underfoot is what he considers to be Sydney’s greatest work of public art, of the indoors variety. Burnet has made the Library’s Tasman Map both the beginning and the end of his fifth book of regional history for interested but not-necessarily-academic readers – readers like you and me. Between these bookends he tells the story of how our variously named island continent – Terra Australis Incognita, Jave Le Grande, t’Zuyd Landt, Hollandia Nova – took its physical cartographic outline.

Rosenberg Front Cover Image

As with his previous books, Burnet provides a richly detailed  but easily digested context for the big global movements involving the rising Catholic and Protestant maritime powers of Western Europe, before going on to summarise all the players who contributed to the map in the library vestibule. There are those who almost everybody knows  – Willem Janszoon of the Duyfken; Dirk Hartog of pewter plate fame; Francois Pelsaert of the frightful Batavia tragedy; Jan Carstenz attacked by aborigines while charting the Gulf of Carpentaria; Frederick de Houtman at the treacherous West Australian Abrolhos reefs; Francois Thijssen sailing off-course on the Gulden Zeepaard and charting Cape Leeuwin and half the Bight, and many others. Followed by Abel Tasman and his voyage of 1642-43 to Tasmania and New Zealand and his 1644 voyage along the north coast of Australia.

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One of the State Library’s most valued possessions  – The 1644  Bonaparte Tasman Map

Just as fascinating as these voyages is Burnet’s account of how the Mitchell Library acquired two priceless treasures of Tasman’s contribution to Australian discovery. One of only two surviving hand-written copies of Tasman’s 1642-43 journal, and the Tasman Map which was prepared in Batavia in about 1644 for the directors of the United Dutch East India Company in Amsterdam.

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The entry from the Tasman Huydecoper Journal for November 24, 1642  and the first sighting of what Abel Tasman named Van Diemens Land  (Tasmania)

The magificent marble vestibule floor based on the Tasman Map was commenced in 1939 by master craftsmen using Wombeyan russet marble with a tone resembling the varnished paper of the original. It’s bordered by green and cream terrazzo with a surrounding mosaic floor of oceanic waves. Next time you visit the Mitchell Library, give it more attention. Or buy the book. Or both.

This is an abreviation of a review, by Jeffrey Mellefont, which was first published in SIGNALS, the quarterly journal of the Australian National Maritime Museum, issue 129 (December 2019–February 2020).

If you wish to buy the book you can order from your favourite bokshop, from the usual online retailers, or if you live in Sydney I can deliver a signed copy to your door.





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The Coral Triangle, The Rajah Ampat and Wayag Island

In early 2020 I joined the Coral Adventurer on its voyage to the Rajah Ampat and the Spice Islands.

The ‘Coral Triangle’ is the planet’s richest centre of marine life and coral diversity, with over 6,000 species of fish, 76% of the world’s coral species, and an awe-inspiring array of wildlife. Resources from the area directly sustain more than 130 million people living here. But overfishing, destructive fishing, unsustainable tourism, impacts of urbanization, and climate change are eroding this resource base.

Coral Triangle


The ‘Coral Triangle’ has the most abundance of coral species and coral reef fish species of anywhere on the planet. This is caused by the ‘Indonesian Throughflow’ between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, when a huge amount of seawater and associated marine plankton flow through the region of ‘The Rajah Ampat’.

Indonesia Flowthrough

Within the ‘Coral Triangle’ is the region of ‘The Four Kings’ that is ‘The Rajah Ampat’ which consist of the four main islands of Misool, Torobi, Batanta and Waigeo. But there are many smaller islands in the region including Wayag which is located to the northwest of Waigeo.

The Rajah Empat Islands

In May 2007, a network of seven Marine Protected Areas was formally declared by the government of the Raja Ampat regency and since then another 5 have been added across the Birds Head Peninsular – a truly impressive achievement.



The seven Marine Protected Areas in the Raja Ampat Marine Reserve

Wayag, which is the northernmost island in the Kawe Marine Reserve consists of a series of islands formed on a carbonate limestone topography, which have been eroded by both rainwater and seawater to form karst remnants.

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The Guest Lecturer doing some ‘guest lecturing’ on karst topography


The view of the karst topograhy from the top of Wayag Island

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Some happy ‘Coral Adventurers’ at the top of Wayag Island

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The Sir William Dixon bronze doors at the Mitchell Library

Inspired by the style of doors that graced the entries of some of America’s most significant public buildings, the bronze portico doors at the entrance to the Mitchell Library in Sydney illustrate various elements of Australian history. Principal librarian William Ifould recognised that the doors were ‘somewhat of a luxury’ and approached benefactor Sir William Dixson to donate the doors in honour of the Library’s other great benefactor David Scott Mitchell.


The central doors honour European explorers of Australia; the left side shows the navigators who explored Australia’s coast and the right side, the explorers who travelled inland (the individual panels identify each explorer by name). The reliefs on the bordering doors were originally planned to depict the various arts and sciences represented in the Library’s collection, but the principal librarian William Ifould rejected the concept in favour of panels illustrating scenes from the lives of the Australian Aboriginal people.


Planning for the doors began in the early 1930s, however Ifould’s vision for ‘a beautiful pair of bronze entrance doors’ quickly became embroiled in controversy. Much debate focused on the subject matter, particularly the Aboriginal panels, which some thought should feature portraits of governors. True to form, among the critics of Ifould’s vision for the doors was the Daily Telegraph, which commented, ‘Mr Ifould is an excellent librarian, but is he capable of judging a piece of sculpture?’


The bas reliefs of aboriginal figures were undertaken by seven sculptors including Queensland sculptor Daphne Mayo, Ralph Walker, Frank Lynch and E. Lenegan and the images of the aboriginal figures were taken from photos in the library’s collection.


Dr John Vallance and Library staff participating in the smoking ceremony

A traditional aboriginal smoking ceremony was held on October 19, 2019 outside the Mitchell Library as part of the Open Day ceremonies for the State Library NSW.


Elder Les Daniel conducting the smoking ceremony


Elder Les Daniel and the bronze doors




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The Dutch Prime Minister and the Tasman Map


Mark Rutte

The Prime Minister of the Netherlands is appointed as an Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia

The Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mr Mark Rutte, spent three days on a working visit to Sydney and Melbourne from 9 to 11 October 2019.

Mr Rutte’s busy schedule began at Admiralty House where he was appointed an Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia for his exceptional leadership to establish the MH17 Joint Investigation Team.

He then met with Prime Minister Morrison for bilateral talks, which included discussions on MH17, strengthening the trade and investment relationship, the circular economy and opportunities for closer international cooperation.

Later in Sydney, Mr Rutte toured the State Library of New South Wales to view items of Dutch-Australian heritage. He also attended business events at the Sydney Opera House, met with the Premier of New South Wales and delivered a keynote speech at the Lowy Institute where he said:

“I believe that Australia and the Netherlands should work closely together in pursuing that goal. I believe that for many reasons. Because we share a long history, going all the way back to the early 17th century, when the Dutch ship Duyfken – the little pigeon – landed in northern Australia.

It was a wonderful experience yesterday at the State Library of New South Wales to see the maps and journals documenting these first encounters between Australia and Europe”.

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Prime Minister Rutte viewing the Tasman Huijdecoper manuscript at the State Library with the Tasman Bonaparte Map in the background.

Prime Minister Rutte visited the State Library of New South Wales where State librarian Dr John Vallance welcomed PM Rutte in the Mitchell Vestibule with the Tasman Map mosaic floor. PM Rutte was also able to closely observe the original Tasman Map, one of the State Library’s most valued possessions, along with the Huijdecoper manuscript by Tasman and Blaeu’s Atlas Major.

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Prime Minister Rutte being welcomed in the Mitchell Library vestibule with the magnificent marble mosaic of the Tasman Map

Rosenberg Front Cover Image


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THE GLOBE – Tasman Map Book Review


The Tasman Map , also known as the Bonaparte Tasman Map, is a prize possession of the Mitchell Library in Sydney. It was bequeathed to the Library, though in a rather roundabout fashion explained in detail in Chapter 27, by Prince Roland Bonaparte. President of the Geographical Society of France and grandnephew of Napoleon I. Compiled over the period from 1606 to 1644, the Tasman Map shows Australia and some neighbouring islands. It was drawn in Batavia either by or under the direction of Isaac Gilsemans, who had been supercargo on the Zeehaen travelling with Tasman in his voyage on the Heemskerk in 1642/43 during which some of the major features of the Tasman Map were charted. It is hand-drawn on Japanese paper. The map is also displayed as a mosaic in marble on the vestibule floor in the Mitchell Library.

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The subtitle of ‘The Biography of a Map’ is a very apt description of the way the story of the construction of the Tasman Map is presented. The Tasman Map is the compilation of sixteen separate discoveries in the Australia-East Indies region beginning with the Portuguese in the sixteenth century. Each of the cartographic steps is presented with detailed accounts of the people involved. Including their personal lives and their roles in the processes that brought traders from Europe to the East Indies. This is the ‘biography’ of the map and it gives the book extra substance and makes for a rich reading experience.

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An interesting feature of this book is that it raises for the reader many ‘What if’ questions about the discovery, mapping and settlement of Australia. What if one of the Dutch attempts to sail through what is now the Torres Strait had been successful and they had discovered and mapped the east coast of Australia? What if Tasman had sailed directly north after leaving Tasmania and encountered Australia’s eastern coast rather than New Zealand? What if the VOC had been run by a more inquisitive group? For me, one of the interesting outcomes of reading this book is the realization that this period of exploration of this part of the world was driven almost exclusively by commercial considerations.

Ian Burnet has presented a detailed and authoritative account of the construction of the Tasman Map and its subsequent history. But he goes a lot further than that. The depth of the social and political history contained here is impressive in the way it provides an insight into the contemporary conditions and the people involved. I have enjoyed reading it and learnt a great deal.

Brian Finlayson, School of Geography, University of Melbourne.


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The Tasman Map – A short documentary

Lost and Found

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The marble mosaic of the Tasman Map in the vestibule of the Mitchell Library

Follow the link to watch a short video (5minutes) from the State Library of NSW on the history of the Tasman Map

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‘Ian Burnet in this stunning volume brings alive the many voyages of discovery that linked the exploration and Dutch conquest of Indonesia to a growing awareness on the part of the Dutch of the great, but as yet unknown, land to the south. Burnet, chapter by chapter with stunning illustrations and reproductions of early maps, has managed to document the many voyages from Europe to the “far east”.

Most of us will have heard of parts of Burnet’s story, whether it is of figures such as Francis Drake, Dirk Hartog or Abel Tasman, or of place names which reflect historical moments in our history, such as the Gulf of Carpentaria, Arnhem Land, Groote Eylandt, Rottnest Island, or Maatsuyker Island. But other parts of his story will be new to many.

This is a book to savour and to learn from and which will serve as a reference to many a historical event of relevance to both Indonesia and Australia’.

Dr. Ron Witton – Inside Indonesia

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The Tasman Map – Book Review

Ian Burnet, The Tasman Map – The Biography of a Map: Abel Tasman, the Dutch East India Company and the first Dutch Discoveries of Australia, Rosenberg Publishing Pty Ltd, 2019

Rosenberg Front Cover Image

Having grown up in Sydney, I can remember as a student visiting the Mitchell Library in the 1950s. My memories are of a large and impressive reading room but I must confess that I paid little attention as to how I arrived in the reading room after passing through the front entrance. I now realise that to do so, I had to traverse one of the most remarkable sights in Australia: a mosaic of the Bonaparte Tasman map in the vestibule:

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The marvellous marble mosaic Tasman Map in the vestibule of the Mitchell Library

This map graphically illustrates the voyages of Abel Tasman and how his voyages of discovery produced the first recognisable image of the Australian continent. What is of particular interest to me, given my interest in Indonesia since my student days, is that this pictorial record Tasman’s voyages south from the Dutch East Indies demonstrates how interlinked are the early histories of Europe’s voyages of discovery to Indonesia and Australia.

Ian Burnet in this stunning volume brings alive the many voyages of discovery that linked the exploration and Dutch conquest of Indonesia to a growing awareness on the part of the Dutch of the great, but as yet unknown, land to the south. Burnet, chapter by chapter with stunning illustrations and reproductions of early maps, has managed to document the many voyages from Europe to the “far east” by way of both the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn that managed to create in Europe a global awareness of the world. It is a tale of the rise of English and Dutch mercantile capitalism, and the subsequent decline of the Portuguese and Spanish feudal empires, the many ways that the “east” and the “west” interacted, the fortunes that were made, the horrors that many ordinary people experienced, and the way the foundations of the modern world were laid in our part of the globe.

Most of us will have heard of parts of Burnet’s story, whether it is of figures such as Francis Drake, Dirk Hartog or Abel Tasman, or of place names which reflect historical moments in our history, such as the Gulf of Carpentaria, Arnhem Land, Groote Eylandt, Rottnest Island, or Maatsuyker Island. But other parts of his story will be new to many. There is the tale of how the tiny spice island of Rhun, lying to our north and claimed by the English was subsequently “swapped” for Manhattan Island that had been claimed by the Dutch. There is the horror story of the wreck of the Batavia on the Western Australian coast where a mutiny among the survivors led to a massacre and an eventual bringing to horrific justice of the perpetrators. The many voyages in our part of the world, such as that of the Duyfken, a replica of which recently sailed around Australia, are brought to life through Burnet’s judicious use of contemporary chronicles, logbooks, paintings and maps.

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The Duyfken replica ship ready to depart from the Banda Islands during the re-enactment of the voyage leading to the Dutch discovery of Australia. (Robert Garvey)

The book also reminds us that Abel Tasman was the first European to circumnavigate Australia despite the fact that for much of his travels he was not in sight of land. However, his two great voyages managed to piece together the disparate understanding of the relationship of our continent to the islands to our north that had slowly arisen through previous voyages, many of which are documented by Burnet.

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The Tasman Map – 1644

The book contains many surprises. There is the 1647 verbatim detailed description of the appearance and life cycle of wallabies written by the first Europeans to encounter such, to European eyes, strange beasts. There is the fact that the great flowering of Dutch art in the 1600s typified by such figures as Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer and Frans Hals, was a direct result of the fabulous fortunes made from the spice islands to our north. There is the more recent amazing tale of how Daisy Bates, while living in the 1920s with remote Aborigines in the Nullarbor Plain, was instrumental in having one of rarest maps in the world, that of the Bonaparte Tasman Map, donated to the Mitchell Library by one of Bonaparte’s descendants.

This is a book to savour and to learn from and which will serve as a reference to many a historical event of relevance to both Indonesia and Australia.

Dr.Ron Witton —  forthcoming in Inside Indonesia




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