Is­land his­tory re­mem­bered

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Liam Croy

Stand­ing at the high­est point of Cape In­scrip­tion, wind roar­ing over the cliffs, Se­bas­tian Har­tog could feel the threads of his­tory tug­ging at his emotions.

From the edge of the precipice, he looked out over the same vast and rugged scene Dutch cap­tain Dirk Har­tog had taken in al­most 400 years ear­lier.

It was the per­fect place to leave ev­i­dence of a visit, a nat­u­ral pedestal for a man-made mon­u­ment.

The In­dian Ocean rolled onto jagged rocks be­low at the re­mote north­ern tip of Aus­tralia’s west­ern­most is­land, now known as Dirk Har­tog Is­land.

To the east were the turquoise wa­ters of the more for­giv­ing Tur­tle Bay, where white sands greeted the Dutch­man on Oc­to­ber 25, 1616.

The mer­chant sailor and his ship, the Een­dracht, were likely blown off course af­ter round­ing the Cape of Good Hope en route to Batavia, now Jakarta.

He spent three days on the is­land, then set sail for Batavia, leav­ing be­hind an in­scribed pewter plate to mark his pas­sage.

Har­tog, sail­ing for the Dutch East In­dia Com­pany, was the first known Euro­pean to set foot in WA and map part of its coast­line.

His plate re­mains the old­est Euro­pean arte­fact in Australian his­tory.

Se­bas­tian Har­tog, 42, who traces his lin­eage back to the famed sailor, re­cently trav­elled to Dirk Har­tog Is­land for the first time ahead of the 400th an­niver­sary of the land­ing.

A cer­e­mony at Cape In­scrip­tion on Tues­day was the cul­mi­na­tion of a five-day, mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar commemorative fes­ti­val.

A first-gen­er­a­tion Australian born of Dutch par­ents, Mr Har­tog keeps a replica pewter plate at his home on the Gold Coast.

Even af­ter eight years of en­vis­ag­ing the jour­ney west, he was taken aback by his re­ac­tion.

“It feels like there’s some­thing here,” Mr Har­tog said.

“It’s re­ally dif­fi­cult to de­scribe,

to pin­point the feel­ing that I’m get­ting be­cause it’s such a range of emotions. “It’s like, ‘This is my his­tory’.” Al­though his an­ces­tor ap­par­ently did not find any­thing par­tic­u­larly re­mark­able about the is­land, Mr Har­tog was blown away.

“For me, this is a nat­u­ral won­der­land,” he said.

“We’ve got wild­flow­ers that are blooming all over the is­land at the mo­ment.

“We’ve got red bluffs, we’ve got turquoise, the most beau­ti­ful ocean that I’ve seen in a long time, and it’s just teem­ing with wildlife.

“Ev­ery bay is dif­fer­ent and it sounds cliched, but I think it’s post­card qual­ity.”

Mr Har­tog was due to re­turn to the is­land for Tues­day’s cer­e­mony, when a new replica plate and in­ter­pre­tive pan­els were of­fi­cially un­veiled.

The fes­ti­val was opened yes­ter­day by the Mal­gana peo­ple, the tra­di­tional own­ers of Dirk Har­tog Is­land, also known as Wir­ruwana.

Mal­gana man Howard Cock, 68, grew up on the is­land, liv­ing there un­til the age of seven, then re­turn­ing to work as a stock­man un­til he was 17. Those pas­toral days are over and the fo­cus has shifted to re­turn­ing the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment to its orig­i­nal state.

Kieran Wardle, the grand­son of for­mer Perth Lord Mayor Sir Thomas Wardle, of­fers eco-tourism op­tions on the is­land.

Mr Cock, a Viet­nam War vet­eran and for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer, wrote a song for the fes­ti­val ti­tled 1616.

He feels a deep sense of con­nec­tion to Wir­ruwana, but he also cher­ishes its Euro­pean his­tory.

“I think it (the his­tory) is won­der­ful,” he said. “I mean, we can’t change it. You’ve got to go for­ward with it and why would you want to change it? “Look at what we have got. “Look at how we live here.” Har­tog’s orig­i­nal pewter plate will be on dis­play at the WA Mar­itime Mu­seum for six months from Oc­to­ber 31 be­fore its re­turn to the Ri­jksmu­seum in Am­s­ter­dam.

The ex­hi­bi­tion, Trav­ellers and Traders in the In­dian Ocean World, will be opened by King Willem-Alexan­der and Queen Max­ima of the Nether­lands.

Pic­tures: Steve Fer­rier

Keiran Whar­dle’s fam­ily have run Dirk Har­tog Is­land since his grand­fa­ther Sir Thomas Whar­dle bought the is­land’s pas­toral lease in 1968.

Depart­ment of Parks and Wildlife work­ers ranger Steve Locke, se­nior ranger Chris McMona­gle and Shark Bay Ma­rine Park co-or­di­na­tor Dave Hol­ley on Dirk Har­tog Is­land.

Shark Bay’s Howard Cock has writ­ten a song about the land­ing.

The replica of the orig­i­nal Dirk Har­tog plate.

The Shark Bay En­ter­tain­ers in pe­riod cos­tume.

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