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Willem de Vlamingh

Willem de Vlamingh (born 28 November 1640, Vlieland - around 1698) was a Dutch sea-captain who explored the southwest coast of Australia (then "New Holland") in the late 17th century.

Vlamingh joined the VOC (Dutch East India Company) in 1688 and made his first voyage to Batavia in the same year. Following a second voyage, in 1694, he was asked to mount an expedition to search for the Ridderschap van Holland, a VOC capital ship that was lost with 325 passengers and crew on its way to Batavia in 1694. VOC officials believed it might have run aground on the west coast of New Holland.

In 1696, Willem de Vlamingh commanded the rescue mission to Australia's west coast to look for survivors of the Ridderschap van Holland that had gone missing two years earlier. The mission proved fruitless, but along the way Vlamingh charted parts of the continent's western coast and as a result improved navigation on the Indian Ocean route from the African Cape of Good Hope to the Dutch East Indies. There were three ships under his command: the frigate De Geelvink, captained by de Vlamingh himself; the hooker De Nijptang, under Captain Gerrit Collaert; and the galiot Weseltje, under Captain Joshua de Vlamingh, son of Willem de Vlamingh. The expedition departed Amsterdam on 2 May 1696 and sailed to Tristan de Cunha and Saint Peter and Paul Rocks.

  • On 29 December 1696, he landed on Rottnest Island. He saw numerous quokkas (a native marsupial) there, and thinking they were large rats he named the island "rats' nest" (Rattennest in Dutch) because of them.
  • On 10 January 1697, he ventured up the Swan River. He and his crew are believed to have been the first Europeans to do so. He named the Swan River (Zwaanenrivier in Dutch) after the large numbers of black swans that he observed there.
  • On 4 February 1697, he landed at Dirk Hartog Island, Western Australia, and replaced Dirk Hartog’s pewter plate with a new one that bore a record of both of the Dutch sea-captain's visits. The original plate is preserved in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

In 1698 De Vlamingh offered Nicolaes Witsen two seashells from New Holland (Australia) and Witsen offered the drawings to Martin Lister.[1] Witsen, who had invested in the journey, was disappointed the men had been more interested in setting up trade than in exploring.[2]


  1. ^ Smit, P & A.P.M. Sanders & J.P.F. van der Veen (1986) Hendrik Engel's Alphabetical List of Dutch Zoological Canbinets and Menageries, p. 306.
  2. ^ Heeres, J.E. (1899) The part borne by the Dutch in the discovery of Australia 1606-1765, p. XVI, 83.

Further reading

  • Playford, Phillip E.(1998) Voyage of discovery to Terra Australis : by Willem De Vlamingh in 1696-97Perth, W.A. Western Australian Museum. ISBN 0730712214


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