The 17th Century Discovery
During the seventeenth century the most remarkable maritime discoveries
were made by the Spaniards, Dutch, and English. In the year 1605
Quiros sailed from Callao, discovered the island of Sagittaria, since
so popular under the name of Otaheite (Tahiti), and the archipelago of Espiritu
Santo, or the New Hebrides of Cook. On this journey he was accompanied
by Torres, the bold seaman who some years after gave his name to the strait which
separates New Guinea from Australia.
While the declining sun of Spain was then gilding with its last
rays, the northern shore of New Holland, the meridian, splendor of the Batavian republic
cast forth bright beams of light over the wide Pacific.
Schouten, Le Maire and Abel Tasman
Schouten and Le Maire, penetrating through the strait which is still named
after the latter, sailed in the year 1616 round Tierra del Fuego and about the same
time Hartog discovered Eendragts Land, on the west coast of Australia.
The successive voyages of Jan Edel (1619), Peter Nuyts (1627), and Peter
Carpenter (1628), brought to light the northern and southern shores of the vast
island, which then began to assume a rude shape on the map of the geographer. In the year 1642,
Abel Tasman, the greatest of the Dutch navigators, drew a mighty furrow through
the South Sea, discovered Van Dielmen's Land, which is called Tasmania,
saw the northern extremity of New Zealand emerge from the ocean, and finally
unveiled to the world the hidden beauties of Tonga.
While the Dutch navigators were thus dissipating the
darkness of Australia, Hudson and Baffin were imortalising their names in
the Arctic Ocean.
In the year 1627 Henry Hudson made the first attempt to steer right on to the
pole, and to cross to India over the axis of the globe. He reached the northern
extremity of Spitzbergen, but all his attempts to penetrate deeper into the polar
ocean were baffled by the mighty ice-fields that opposed his progress. He failed in
his undertaking to sail through the region of eternal winter to the spicy groves of India
but the numerous mores and seals he had seen basking on the coast of Spitzbergen
opened prospects of future profit. The "Muscovy Company," which had fitted out
the expedition, was by no means unhappy with the results of his voyage.
Three years after we find Hudson once more attempting to
discover the northwest passage in a vessel of fifty-five tons, provisioned for six months.
The crew which he commanded was unfortunately utterly unworthy of such a leader, and
quailed as soon as they had to encounter the fog and ice-fields of the Frozen Ocean.
But, in spite of the murmurs, the dauntless commander pressed on
through the strait which bears his name, until at last his little bark emerged into a
boundless deep blue sea. Hudson's Bay lay before him, but the delighted discoverer
was happy in the belief that the grand object of his voyage was attained, and the shortest
road to India laid open to the mariners of England. It was about the beginning of August,
and the spiritless crew considering the passage accomplished, urged an immediate return;
but Hudson was determined on completing the adventure, and wintering if possible on
the sunny shores of India.
Three months long he continued tracking the coasts of that vast
northern Mediterranean, now for the first time explored by civilized man, vainly
hoping to see a new channel opening to the west, until at length November came and
imprisoned his small vessel in compact imprisonment. A long and dreary winter awaited the
ice-bound seamen, with almost exhausted provisions, and unfortunately without that heroic
patience and serene concord which had sustained the sufferings of Barentz and his
companions. It must indeed have been a melancholy winter for poor Hudson, solitary
and friendless among scowling ruffians, hating him as the cause of their bitter misery.
Spring came at last. The ship is again afloat, and on the 2lst of June,1611, the
captain comes forth from his cabin. But as he steps on deck his arms are pinioned, and he
finds himself in the power of a mutinous crew. All fails to move their stubborn
resolution, and Hudson resigns himself bravely to his fate. A small open boat is
waiting, and into this he is lowered, some powder and shot and the carpenter's box came
next, followed by the carpenter himself, a strong brave fellow, the captain's one devoted
adherent among the rebellious crew; the sick and infirm complete the unfortunate cargo. A
signal is given, the boat is cast adrift, and soon the last faint cry for mercy expires in
the breeze which carries the vessel onwards on its homeward course.
Thus perished the high-minded Hudson, without further tiding or
trace. Some leaders of that dark conspiracy fell in a fight with the Eskimos, and
others died on the homeward voyage, which was performed under the extremity of
In the year 1616 Baffin sailed round the enormous bay to which his name
has been given, but without attempting to penetrate through any one of those wide sounds.
From the times of Tasman, whose bold voyage through the wastes
of the Southern Pacific has already been mentioned, to those of Cook very
little was done for the progress of geography. The voyages most worthy of remark
during this period were those of the Cossack Semen Deshnew (1654), who sailed from
the mouth of the Kolyma River round the eastern promontory of Asia, and must
be considered as the discoverer of Behring's Straits, of the adventurous Dampier
(1689-1691), that strange combination of the buccaneer, the author, and the
naturalist, who first discovered the strait which separates New Guinea from New
Ireland, of the Dutchman Roggewein (1721 -23), who made known some
islands in the Pacific, of the brothers Laptew and of Prontschitschew (1734-1743),
who unveiled the greatest part of the Siberian coast; of Commodore Anson
(1740-1744), whose heroic sufferings and successes in the Pacific still live in the
memory of his countrymen, and of the unfortunate Behring (1730-1741), who
terminated his second unsuccessful exploring expedition by a miserable death on a desert
Back to Maritime Discovery