On this day, 26th February 1606, Dutch explorer Willem Jansz became the first recorded European to land on Australia’s shores.
Willem Janszoon, often known as Willem Jansz, is believed to have been born in 1570, in the Netherlands. He sailed for the Dutch East Indies in 1598 and again in 1601.
Willem Jansz departed on his third trip to the East Indies on 18 December 1603, commanding the “Duyfken”, in search of other trade possibilities. He reached the coast of western New Guinea on 18 November 1605, then crossed the Arafura Sea into the Gulf of Carpentaria. On 26 February 1606, Jansz became the first recorded European to step foot on Australia’s shores at the Pennefather River, near where the Queensland town of Weipa now stands, on the western shore of Cape York Peninsula.
Encountering hostility from the indigenous people, Jansz lost ten of his crew during visits to the shore. He was uncomplimentary of the land, finding it swampy, but still charted 320 kilometres of the shore before returning to the Netherlands. However, he was of the opinion that his landing point was part of New Guinea, and Dutch maps reflected this error for many years.
Hondius, Henrik: India quae Orientalis dicitur, et insulae adiacentes 1639
State Library of New South Wales Z/CA 58/1
A beautiful hand-coloured engraved chart which depicts New Guinea and the west coast of Cape York, believed by the Dutch to be one land. This is one of the first printed maps to depict the Australian coastline. Drooge bocht (dry bight) at the centre is Torres Strait. The west coast of Cape York had been discovered and charted by Willem Jansz in the Duyfken in 1606, the earliest definite sighting of the Australian coastline.