“We have been much inclined, to sail to, accordingly to discover, the partly known and still unreached South and Easternland, and also consequently to seek out important lands, or at least convenient passages to known rich places, and to use these at a more convenient time, for the improvement and increase of the Compy’s general welfare.”
(The Dutch East India Company’s authorities in Batavia, 1 August 1642)
On 24. November 1642 Abel Tasman and his crew on board of the ships Zeehaen and Heemskerck were the first Europeans to make contact with Tasmania. According to their orders they took possession of the island and named it ‘Anthony van Diemens Landt’. Seven months later they returned to Batavia for report.
At the time of Tasman’s journey European navigators had solved the problem of laying down their latitude by using the backstaff, a device used to measure the sun’s peak elevation at noon or a certain star’s peak elevation at midnight.
The determination of longitude remained a problem until the late eighteenth century when the development of an exact chronometer made it possible to indicate a ship’s distance in time from a set meridian in relation to the position of the sun. Tasman’s estimations of longitude depended largely on guesswork and are therefore fairly inaccurate as he consistently positioned himself to far to the East.