Confirming Anderson’s location of Tasman’s D’Urville anchorage

In The Voyages of Abel Janszoon Tasman, 1968, Andrew Sharp did not attempted to exactly locate Tasman’s 1642 anchorage between Dec 21st and 26th. Instead he cautiously observed: “It is difficult to relate the positions in the drawing … and the chart … to each other or to the precise topography of the area, or to identify the rocks behind which they anchored with Stephens Island NNW. The anchorage cannot be pinpointed, but was somewhere east of D’Urville Island.

f066--dUrville IdIt is indeed hard to to relate the positions in the drawing (above)and the chart (below) to each other or to the precise topography of the area, because the chart seems to place the D’Urville anchorage about half a degree south of the Golden Bay anchorage, a distance of some 50km.

anchorages Tasman's mapSince Sharp published in 1968 more has been learned. In 1991 Grahame Anderson published an article: ‘Tasman revalued, a note on Gilsemans’ drawings’. Anderson was more confident than Sharp, and having visited the area in 1985 on an 11 metre yacht he wrote “Within a few minutes of arriving at what we thought might be the right place, using Tasman’s bearings to Stephens island and his depth at the anchorage as primary guidelines, we found to our surprise and delight that we had pin-pointed their position to within 50 metre. Gilsemans’ drawing was a precise cartographic document, with every island, headland and hilltop in exactly the right place, and its curved coastline encompassed the whole of the top of the Marlborough Sounds from Cape Jackson in the east to Cape Stephens in the west.

Christmas anchorage 1642To understand the drawing in the way Anderson does its helpful to align it with a  map.

Anderson anchorageIt’s also helpful to reject Sharp’s translators phrase “let our anchor fall there behind some rocks” in favour of Heeres’ translation: “then dropped our anchor behind a number of cliffs in 33 fathom, sandy ground mixed with shells. There are many islands and cliffs all round here.”

Now, having photographed the area myself from a point just a little closer than Anderson’s to the shelter of Rangitoto Islands numerous cliffs, I can confirm that his location, or one close to it, makes the best sense of all the different strands of evidence:

pan 2 labelledWhile cloud concealed many of the higher features Anderson identifies, I have found Google Earth 3d a helpful tool, as it allows the user to zoom in on every feature Anderson identifies, viewing them all from different altitudes as necessary and so ensuring the  topography is accurately understood.

google pan labelledThe Google Earth derived image above is taken from the anchorage location as established by Anderson (2001, p.98), whereas the photo panorama above it is from a rather more sheltered position somewhat closer to the cliffs of Rangitoto Islands. The panorama below is from a position even further out than Grahame’s, but all three are on a line between Mount Pascoe and Jag Rocks. Both photo panoramas are taken with a depth of around 50 metres, which I regard as more compatible with the 1.7 metre fathom Hoving states was used by Dutch in 1642.

Pan 5






This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Confirming Anderson’s location of Tasman’s D’Urville anchorage

  1. Dave Horry says:

    I believe we can deduce the position of this anchorage quite precisely, and confidently.

    There are four documents that helps us with this location;
    – The illustration “A view of Abel Tasmans Bay, as you lie at anchor, there in 35 fathom” from – the SAC copy of Tasman’s journal.
    – Visscher’s chart; the chart of New Zealand included in the “Huydecoper” copy of Tasman’s journal
    – The text of Tasman’s journal
    – The text of what’s known as “the Sailors Journal”

    From Tasman’s journal text, and Visscher’s chart, we can confidently identify Stephens Island as the island first seen on Dec 19th, and mentioned in the journals on December 20th and on December 21st.

    December 20th: “At noon we tacked to northward when we saw a round high islet west by south of us, at about 8 miles distance which we had passed the day before; ”

    December 21st: “the island which the day before we had west of us at about 6 miles distance now lay south-west by south of us at about 4 miles distance. We made for it, running on until the said island was north-north-west of us, then dropped our anchor behind a number of cliffs in 33 fathom”

    As you leave Golden Bay heading North-east, the last significant island you pass of the South Island of New Zealand is Stephens Island, located off the northern end of D’Urville Island. It is a prominent, high and rounded island.

    The journal entry for December 21st says that they sailed into what is now known as Admiralty Inlet, “running on until the said island was north-north-west of us, then dropped our anchor behind a number of cliffs in 33 fathom”

    So we know that the position at anchor was SSE of Stephens Island. Also we know that the depth measured was 33 (Dutch) fathoms, or approximately 55 metres.

    In this position he described being surrounded by rocks and islands.

    There is one extra piece of information from the Sailors journal, that at anchor they were “about one mile from the shore”, that is about 7.4km from the closest land.

    Grahame Anderson correctly identified this location (to within reasonable confidence). The location he gave conforms to these 3 criteria; SSE of Stephens Island, 55m depth and 7.4 km from the nearest land… Rangitoto Islands.

    This detail inset panel in this poster shows my reconstruction of the anchorage location.

    It is virtually the same of Grahame’s estimate, and certainly within the variability implicit in the data; the accuracy of line of sight ‘distance’ estimates, the rounding of bearings to the closest point of a 32 point compass, and depth measurement.

Comments are closed.