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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Vlamingh, Willem de

by J. Van Lohuizen

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Willem de Vlamingh (flourished 1697), a native of Vlieland, Holland, and a skipper of the Dutch East India Co., was sent out with three ships in May 1696 from Holland to look for survivors of a ship which was thought to have been wrecked on the west coast of Australia. They sighted the coast on 29 December and anchored off Rottnest Island at about 31° 47' S. On 31 December de Vlamingh went ashore and a few days later men were sent to the mainland, where they found traces of Aboriginals. A river with numerous black swans was called Swaanerivier and de Vlamingh rowed some ten miles (16 km) up it. On 13 January 1697 the vessels weighed anchor and sailed north. As a careful survey was made of the coast, the ships made slow progress and parties were regularly sent ashore.

On 30 January de Vlamingh anchored at 26° 12' S. near an island where Dirck Hartogsz, a native of Amsterdam and skipper of the Dutch East India Co., had landed when on a voyage to the East Indies in charge of the Eendracht in 1616. He had sailed too far east from the Cape of Good Hope and on 25 October anchored off the west Australian coast about 25° S. in a bay called Dirck Hartogsz anchorage, presumably Shark Bay. He and his men went ashore, erected a pole and fastened to it a pewter dish with an inscription commemorating their visit. On 3 February 1697 a party sent ashore from de Vlamingh's ship reported that it had found the dish. De Vlamingh took it away but had another inscribed commemorating the landings of both 1616 and 1697. On 12 February his ships left and sailed up the coast to 21° S. until 21 February when they made for Batavia where they arrived on 20 March.

Hartogsz' dish is now, though highly dilapidated, in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. In 1818 Freycinet took de Vlamingh's dish to Paris, where it was rediscovered in 1940. In 1947 it was returned to Australia and is in the Perth Museum. On 30 December 1935 a plaque was unveiled on Rottnest Island, commemorating de Vlamingh's visit there. The date on the plaque should have been 31 December and not 30 December 1696. In 1938 the Australian government had a bronze plaque fitted on the lighthouse of Dirk Hartog Island to commemorate the first recorded landing of Europeans in Australia, although Willem Janssen had been an earlier visitor.

Select Bibliography

  • P. A. Leupe, De Reizen der Nederlanders, Naar het Zuidland of Nieuw-Holland in de 17e en 18e Eeuw (Amsterdam, 1868)
  • F. W. Stapel, De Oostindische Compagnie en Australië (Amsterdam, 1937)
  • A. Sharp, The Discovery of Australia (Oxford, 1963).

Citation details

J. Van Lohuizen, 'Vlamingh, Willem de ', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

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