Cook not the first to visit Oz

The Oldie - - READERS' LETTERS -

SIR: I’m afraid that, in say­ing ‘as the first Euro­pean to land in Aus­tralia, Cook had dis­cov­ered a con­ti­nen­tal land mass known only to the indige­nous in­hab­i­tants’, David Hor­spool (Au­gust is­sue) shares a delu­sion com­mon among the English. The land mass was well-known to Euro­peans, es­pe­cially the Dutch, for over 150 years prior to Cook’s ar­rival, and sev­eral of them had landed there. The first, Willem Jan­szoon, landed in what is now north-west Queens­land in 1606, fol­lowed in 1621 by Dirk Har­tog, who left a plate nailed to a post to record his land­ing on the con­ti­nent’s west coast. The plate can still be seen in the Ri­jksmu­seum in Am­s­ter­dam.

Cook was not even the first English­man to land in Aus­tralia. Apart from some who did so ac­ci­den­tally, Wil­liam Dampier was sent by the Ad­mi­ralty to do so in 1699, mapped part of the west coast, and even recorded some of its flora and fauna. Cook’s achieve­ment was to find the east coast. The trick was sim­ple enough in the­ory: to ap­proach from the east. But that in­volved the tricky bit – round­ing Cape Horn. Ken Hosk­ing, South­fields, Lon­don

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