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Dirk Hartog (1580–1621)

by Phillip E. Playford

This article was published:

Dirk Hartog (1580-1621), mariner, was baptized on 30 October 1580 in the Oude Kerk (Old Church), Amsterdam, the Netherlands, second son and one of at least four children of Hartych Krynen, mariner, and his wife Griet Jans. On 20 February 1611, in the Old Church, Dirk married with Calvinist forms 18-year-old Meynsgen Abels. They are not known to have had children. At a time when Dutch spellings were not standardized, his name was variously spelled, including Hartogszoon, Hartogsz, Hartoogs, Hatichs and Hertoghsz as his surname, and Dirck or Dirick as his first name. He signed his name (in several extant documents) as Dyrck Hartoochz. In Australian history, however, he has become known as Dirk Hartog.

By 1615 Hartog had engaged on voyages to various European ports as the owner and skipper of a small trading vessel, the Dolphyn (Dolphin). In 1616 he was appointed to the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (United East India Co.) as skipper of the Eendracht (Concord) on its maiden voyage to the East Indies (Indonesia). It sailed from Texel on 23 January, carrying ten money chests containing 80,000 reals (pieces-of-eight), valued at about 200,000 guilders. The weather was bitterly cold and immediately before sailing twenty-one crewmembers and eight soldiers deserted by walking ashore over sea ice.

The Eendracht reached the Cape of Good Hope on 5 August 1616 and left on 27 August, following the newly adopted 'Brouwer' route, which directed V.O.C. ships to sail east across the Indian Ocean for a 1000 Dutch miles (c.7400 km), before heading north to the Sunda Strait. Longitude could then be estimated only very approximately, however, and it was inevitable that a V.O.C. navigator would eventually sail too far east and come upon the west coast of Australia. Hartog was the first to do so. On 25 October 1616 members of the Eendracht's crew landed at the north end of what is now known as Cape Inscription on Dirk Hartog Island. They left a record of their visit inscribed on a flattened pewter plate, nailed to an oak post and placed upright in a fissure on the cliff top. The inscription on the plate may be translated as:

1616, 25 October, is here arrived the ship the Eendracht of Amsterdam, the upper-merchant Gillis Miebais of Liege, skipper Dirck Hatichs of Amsterdam; the 27th ditto set sail again for Bantam, the under-merchant Jan Stins, the uppersteersman Pieter Dookes van Bill, Anno 1616.
On 14 December the Eendracht reached Macassar (Ujung Pandang), where a confrontation with local inhabitants resulted in the deaths of fifteen of its men. Hartog then visited other trading centres in the East Indies, delivering chests of money. Still under his command, the Eendracht left Bantam (Banten) on 17 December 1617, carrying a rich cargo of benzoin (an aromatic wax used for medicinal purposes), silk and other goods. The ship reached Zeeland in the Netherlands on 16 October 1618.

Leaving V.O.C. employment, Hartog skippered the Geluckige Leeu (Lucky Lion) on voyages to European ports. He died in 1621, in Amsterdam, and was buried on 11 October in the grounds of the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church). His remains were later removed to a communal grave field outside the city.

The Eendracht plate remained where it had been placed until 2 February 1697, when men of Willem de Vlamingh's expedition found it lying beside a decayed post. Vlamingh replaced it with another flattened pewter plate, inscribed with a copy of the text on the old plate and a record of his own visit, and nailed it to a new post. He took the Eendracht plate to Batavia (Jakarta); from there it was transferred to the V.O.C.'s archives in the Netherlands and later to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. It is the oldest known record of a landing by Europeans in Australia.

Hartog's discovery had a major impact on world cartography. Although Willem Jansz had charted the west coast of Cape York Peninsula some ten years earlier, that land was generally regarded as an extension of New Guinea. After Hartog's discovery, the mythical continent known as Terra Australis Incognita (the Unknown South Land) was replaced on maps by a major landmass called 't Landt van de Eendracht (the Land of the Eendracht). Later discoveries extended charts of its coastline and the continent was later renamed Hollandia Nova (New Holland) by the Dutch, and Australia by the British.

Select Bibliography

  • J. E. Heeres, The Part Borne by the Dutch in the Discovery of Australia 1606-1765 (Lond, 1899)
  • G. Schilder, Australia Unveiled (Amsterdam, 1976)
  • J. P. Sigmond and L. H. Zuiderbaan, Nederlanders ontdekken Australie (Bussum, Netherlands, 1976)
  • J. P. Sigmond and L. H. Zuiderbaan, Dutch Discoveries of Australia (Syd, 1979)
  • G. Schilder (ed), Voyage to the Great South Land, Willlem de Vlamingh 1696-1697 (Syd, 1985)
  • J. van der Veen, Australië: Het Onbekende Zuidland Naderbij (Groningen, Netherlands, 1988)
  • P. E. Playford, Carpet of Silver (Perth, 1996)
  • P. E. Playford, Voyage of Discovery to Terra Australis (Perth, 1998)
  • information from the National Archives, the Hague, and the Municipal Archives, Amsterdam
  • private information.

Citation details

Phillip E. Playford, 'Hartog, Dirk (1580–1621)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]




1621 (aged ~ 41)
Amsterdam, Netherlands

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