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Not to be confused with Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571–1638), a contemporary Dutch cartographer
Willem Janszoon
Born 1570
Died 1630
Nationality Dutch
Other names Willem Jansz.
Occupation Navigator and colonial governor
Known for Discovery of Australia

Willem Janszoon (c. 1570–1630), Dutch navigator and colonial governor, is the first European known to have seen the coast of Australia - in 1606. His name is sometimes abbreviated to Willem Jansz. (with or without the full stop).[1] Janszoon served in the Netherlands East Indies for several periods 1603–11, 1612–16, including a period as governor of Fort Henricus on Solor.[2]

Early lifeEdit

Nothing is known of Willem Janszoon's early life. He is first recorded as entering into the service of the Oude compagnie, one of the predecessors of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), as a mate aboard the Hollandia, part of the second fleet under Jacob Cornelisz. van Neck, dispatched by the Dutch to the Dutch East Indies in 1598.[3] On 5 May 1601, he again sailed for the East Indies as master of the Lam, one of three ships in the fleet of Joris van Spilbergen.[4]

Janszoon sailed from the Netherlands for the East Indies for the third time on 18 December 1603, as captain of the Duyfken (or Duijfken, meaning “Little Dove”), one of twelve ships of the great fleet of Steven van der Hagen.[5] When the other ships left Java, Janszoon was sent to search for other outlets of trade, particularly in "the great land of New Guinea and other East and Southlands".


On 18 November 1605, the Duyfken sailed from Bantam to the coast of western New Guinea. Janszoon then crossed the eastern end of the Arafura Sea, without seeing the Torres Strait, into the Gulf of Carpentaria. On 26 February 1606, he made landfall at the Pennefather River on the western shore of Cape York in Queensland, near the modern town of Weipa. This is the first recorded European landfall on the Australian continent. Janszoon proceeded to chart some 320 km of the coastline, which he thought was a southerly extension of New Guinea.

Finding the land swampy and the people inhospitable (ten of his men were killed on various shore expeditions), at Cape Keerweer (“Turnabout”), south of Albatross Bay, Willem Janszoon decided to return and arrived at Bantam in June 1606. He called the land he had discovered “Nieu Zeland” after the Dutch province of Zeeland, but the name was not adopted and was later used by Abel Tasman for New Zealand.

The Duyfken was actually in Torres Strait in March 1606, a few months before Luís Vaz de Torres sailed through it. In 1607 Cornelis Matelieff de Jonge sent him to Ambon and Banda.[6] In 1611 Janszoon returned to the Netherlands believing that the south coast of New Guinea was joined to the land along which he sailed, and Dutch maps reproduced this error for many years. Though there have been suggestions that earlier navigators from China, France, or Portugal may have discovered parts of Australia, the Duyfken is the first European vessel definitely known to have done so.

Second voyage to AustraliaEdit

Janszoon reported that on 31 July 1618, he had landed on an island at 22° South with a length of 22 miles and 240 miles[vague]

SSE of the Sunda Strait.[7] This is generally interpreted as a description of the peninsula from Point Cloates (22°43′S 113°40′E / 22.717°S 113.667°E / -22.717; 113.667) to North West Cape (21°47′S 114°09′E / 21.783°S 114.15°E / -21.783; 114.15) on the Western Australian coast, which Janszoon presumed was an island, without fully circumnavigating it.[8]

Political lifeEdit

Around 1617/18 he was back in the Netherlands and appointed as a member of the Council of the Indies. He served as admiral of the Dutch Defense fleet[9] He was awarded a gold chain worth 1,000 guilders in 1619 for his part in capturing four ships of the British East India Company near Tiku on West Sumatra, which had aided the Javanese in their defense of the town of Jakarta against the Dutch.[10] In 1620 he was one of the negotiators with the English. In a combined fleet they sailed to Manilla to prevent Chinese merchants dealing with the Spanish. Janszoon became vice-admiral; in the year after admiral. At the end of his life Janszoon served as governor of Banda (1623–27).[11] He returned to Batavia in June 1627 and soon afterwards, as admiral of a fleet of eight vessels, went on a diplomatic mission to India.[12] On 4 December 1628, he sailed for Holland and on 16 July 1629, reported on the state of the Indies at The Hague.[12] He was probably now about sixty years of age and willing to retire from his strenuous and successful life in the service of his country. Nothing is known of his last days, though he is thought to have died in 1630.


The original journal and log made during Janszoon’s 1606 voyage have been lost. The Duyfken chart,[13] which shows the location of the first landfall in Australia by the Duyfken, had a better fate. It was still in existence in Amsterdam when Hessel Gerritszoon made his Map of the Pacific in 1622, and placed the Duyfken geography upon it, thus providing us with the first map to contain any part of Australia. The chart was still in existence about 1670, when a copy was made, which eventually went to the Imperial Library in Vienna and remained forgotten there for two hundred years. The map is part of the Atlas Blaeu Van der Hem, brought to Vienna in 1730 by Prince Eugene of Savoy. The information from his charts was included in the marble and copper maps of the hemispheres on the floor of The Citizens’ Hall of the Royal Palace Amsterdam[14][15]


  1. The patronymic Janszoon means “son of Jan,” or son of “Johannes” (Janszoon in Dutch). In the early seventeenth century this was in some dialects probably pronounced as Jansen (yahn-sun) This is similar to Johnson in English. Surnames were usually not used and children were simply named for their father's given name. In areas where not many people lived. but also in towns and cities, he would simply be given the name Willem Jansz, so all we know about him is that his father’s name was Johannes or Jan. For girl this would be Jansdochter. As in many countries, genealogy and historical research in the Netherlands can be difficult for this reason. See Note on 17th Century Dutch names. Project Gutenberg of Australia. 31 July 2005. 
  2. Mutch (1942), p43
  3. Mutch (1942), p13
  4. Mutch (1942), p15
  5. Mutch (1942), p17
  6. Dictionary of Australian Biography I-K. Retrieved on 2013-08-02.
  7. Heeres (1899), p13
  8. Mutch (1942), p46
  9. Mutch (1942), p49
  10. Mutch (1942), p48
  11. Mutch (1942), p50
  12. 12.0 12.1 Mutch (1942), p51
  13. "Dese Pascaerte vertoont de wegh, soo int heen als in het weerom seylen, die gehouden is bij het Jacht het Duijfien in het besoecken van de landen beoosten Banda, tot aen Nova Guinea, Maer Guili-guli op Cenam, ende Caram etc, is na de afteijckeninge van Abraham Francken A. 1602. den 20 April gedaen, Ende Nieuw Zelandt met de Gounongapi daer beoosten is beseijlt, bij Jasper Janssen de Jonge". This chart shows the routes taken by the pinnace Duyfken on the outward as well as on the return voyage when she visited the countries east of Banda up to New Guinea. But Guli Guli on Ceran and Ceram, etc is after the survey drawn by Abraham Francken anno 1602, done 20th April, and Nieuw Zelant with the Gunung Api east of there has been sailed about by Jasper Janssen de Jonge. Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek. Bildarchiv. 1670. OCLC 455936201. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  14. South Land to New Holland: Dutch Charting of Australia 1606–1756


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