Cook not the first to visit Oz
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