Our view of Dirk Hartog Island from Steep Point
Dirk, aka Dierick Hartochsz, was born in 1580 in Amsterdam to a seafaring family. He spent his early career as a private merchant, executing trading ventures in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas.
By the time he was appointed the master of the Eendracht (VOC ship) in 1615, a new sailing route from Cape York to Australia had been pioneered by Dutch explorer Hendrik Brouwer. This new route used took advantage of powerful winds called the Roaring Forties, which halved the time of travel from South Africa to Java.
In 1616, Dirk and a fleet of VOC ships set sail for Batavia, aka Indonesia, to trade spices and goods, but on the way, Dirk’s ship was separated in a storm. He arrived to South Africa behind the rest of the ships and set sail across the Indian Ocean by himself. About 8 months later, he landed on a small island off the coast of Western Australia, which today is known as Dirk Hartog Island. He left a pewter plate on the island, known as the Hartog Plate, with the following inscription:
“1616 25th October arrived here the ship Eendracht of Amsterdam; the supercargo Gilles Mebais of Luick; Skipper Dirk Hartog, of Amsterdam , the 27 ditto set sail for Bantam. Subcargo Jan Stins; Upper-steersman Pieter Doores of Bil. Dated 1616.”
He then headed north from Shark Bay, charting the coast as he went. He named the land he explored as Landt van d’Eendracht, aka Eendracht’s Land. This is a significant event because it’s the first recorded European Landing in Western Australia, but the second European landing on Australian soil.
About 81 years later in 1697, another European landed on the same island. Willem De Vlamingh found Hartog’s plate half buried in the sand. He replaced it with a new plate that had Hartog’s original inscription, as well as his own. He took the original plate back to Amsterdam and it now lives at the Dutch National Museum. When Hartog finished his expedition, he quit the VOC and went back to private trading in the Baltic.