Who Was Willem Janszoon And What Did He Do

by Allan Cockerill on May 22, 2011

Willem Janszoon was born some time around 1570, probably in Amsterdam, and died in 1630.

He was a Dutch navigator and colonial governor, and is believed to have possibly been the first European known to have seen the coast of Australia.

His name is sometimes abbreviated to Willem Jansz.

Janszoon served in the Dutch East Indies for some time, from 1603 – 1611, and 1612 – 1616.

He also served as governor of Fort Henricus on Solor for a time.

Willem Jansoon: Explorer

On 18 November 1605, the Duyfken sailed from Bantam to the coast of western New Guinea under Janszoon’s command. He then crossed the eastern end of the Arafura Sea into the Gulf of Carpentaria.

He made landfall on 26 February 1606 at the Pennefather River on the western shore of Cape York in what is now the Australian state of Queensland, near the site of the modern town of Weipa.

This was the first recorded European landfall on the Australian continent.

Janszoon proceeded to chart some 320 km of the coastline, which he thought was a southerly extension of the island of New Guinea.

Finding the land swampy and the people inhospitable Janszoon decided to return and arrived at Bantam in June 1606.

He called the land he had discovered “Nieu Zeland” after the Dutch province of Zeeland, but the name was not adopted and was later used by Abel Tasman for New Zealand.

Janzsoon and the Duyfken were actually in Torres Strait in March 1606, just a few weeks before Torres sailed through.

In 1611 Willem Janszoon returned to Holland believing that the south coast of New Guinea was joined to the land along which he sailed. Dutch maps reproduced this error for many years.

Though there have been suggestions that earlier navigators from China, France, or Portugal may have discovered parts of Australia, the Duyfken is the first European vessel definitely known to have done so.

For more information, go to this Wikipedia article!

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