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






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A new Tasman biography by Grahame Anderson


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A reconstruction of Abel Tasman’s course

Linked below is a new reconstruction of Tasman’s course, by Dave Horry

This reconstruction uses all spatial references in Abel Tasman’s journal to build a complete turn by turn course of his progress up the coast of New Zealand.

Information from the journal used to make this reconstruction includes: observed latitude, bearings to features, distances to features, depth, direction sailed, and distance sailed (since the previous day)

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The fires seen by Tasman’s expedition

Tasman’s expedition is reported to have seen fires or smoke at least three times between the landfall west of Punakaiki on Dec 13th and Dec 26th when its two ships sailed north again from their anchorage east of D’Urville Island.

On the 15th, just north of Cape Foulwind, Tasman’s Journal mentions the lack of any smoke: “did not see any human beings nor any Smoke whatsoever nor are they likely to have any boats here since we did not see any trace of boats”.

However after this there are three mentions of fires onshore, two in Tasman’s Journal and one in the first-hand Haelbos account published in 1671. They are as follows:

Tasman’s Journal, Dec 17th –  “In the morning at sunrise we were about a mile away from the coast. Saw at various places Smoke ascending from fires made by the Natives. The wind then being South and from the land we turned Eastward again.”

Tasman’s Journal, Dec 18th – “In the Evening about one Hour after Sunset we saw many Lights on the Land and four boats close inshore two of which came towards us upon which our two boats returned”.

Haelbos account: – Dec 19th – Jan 5th – “Tasman named the harbour, because of the cruel treatment, the Murderers Bay: found himself then surrounded by land: was tossed at anchor by hard storm, before a coast, where we saw much smoke rise: and sailed further along the coast till the 5th of January of the year 1643.”

So lets consider these three references one at a time:

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