The Duyfken Chart

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For the first time anywhere in the world, a colour copy of the first map of Australia is now available to the public. It was developed to complement the book, ‘1606 Discovery of Australia,’ and to celebrate 2006, the quad centenary year of the first European discovery of Australia.


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The Duyfken Chart – Full colour. Size: 565 x 510 mm

Cost: Unlaminated – $50 plus postage and postal tube ($10)
Laminated – $70 plus postage and postal tube ($15)

The Duyfken Chart

For the first time anywhere in the world, a colour copy of the first map of Australia is now available to the public. It was developed to complement the book, ‘1606 Discovery of Australia,’ and to celebrate 2006, the quad centenary year of the first European discovery of Australia.

The 2004 map has been completely redrawn from the black and white copy of the Duyfken Chart that exists in the Mitchell Library. Dr Wieder who published them in his Monumenta Cartographica in 1933 rediscovered the original map. It was originally part of a collection of a wealthy Dutch solicitor, Lauren van der Hem, 1621 – 1678), whose hobby was collecting maps.

To his collection he added copies of original maps and charts belonging to the Dutch East India Company. His atlas was sold at public auction and resold to the Austrian National Library (Hofbibliothek), Vienna. Included in his 46-volume atlas were the charts of the voyages of the Duyfken in 1606. It’s part of a collection of maps in a large book of the Secret Atlas of the Dutch East India Company.

This map, which was drawn about 1670, is a copy of the original map drawn by Willem Janszoon on board his ship the Duyfken during its voyage of discovery along the west coast of Cape York Peninsula. The picture of the Duyfken was added to the map to enhance its appeal.

The original map’s dimensions were 615 x 560 mm whereas the 2004 version is slightly smaller, 565 x 510 mm. This was done for purely practical reasons to fit the closest sized paper available to print the map without resorting to expensive cropping. Many old seventeenth – century Dutch maps were used to obtain the most authenticate colour scheme.

The Discovery of Australia 1606

Captain Janszoon was given very specific instructions to discover new sources of trade and search for a new route into the Pacific Ocean that would avoid the Spanish Philippines.

Janszoon left Bantam which is close to the Sundra Straits and Batavia, (Jakarta), on the 18th November, 1605. The Duyfken sailed for Banda, which was situated south of the island of Ceram. After visiting the Kei and Aru Islands, Janszoon reached the south west coast of New Guinea.

Following instructions of searching for trade, Janszoon was obliged to meet the inhabitants and explore the land. Unfortunately, cannibals who showered them with arrows attacked some of the crew. The ship only carried 20 men. Cannibals killed eight men but I believe that at least some of these men were killed on the return journey.

After sailing around southern part of New Guinea, Janszoon turned into Torres Strait but could not proceed further east due to the numerous sandbanks and islands, shallow water, treacherous shoals and bad weather.

Janszoon steered the Duyfken south into the Gulf of Carpentaria. Finding no land, he changed course to southeast by east until he sighted Cape York Peninsula just north of Weipa at a place called Pennefather River. Janszoon called the river, ‘River with the Bush’, (R. met het bosch). Perhaps after a few nights in monsoon conditions, Janszoon was searching for firewood. This was the first place name given to any part of Australia and the first point on the Australian continent ever reached by Europeans.

According to Willem C.H. Roberts who wrote ‘The Dutch Explorations of the North and Northwest of Australia’ Janszoon “reached the Gulf of Carpentaria in January 1606.” He probably landed at Pennefather River towards the end of January.

Sailing south, he crossed Albatross Bay which he called Vliege Baij or Fly Bay. Continuing south past the Archer and Watson Rivers, Janszoon named them the Dubbetel Rev or the Double Rivers. Janszoon named the next river “R. Vis” or River Fish. The west coast of Cape York is famous for its abundance of fish.

After reaching Cape Keerweer, Janszoon was forced to turn around. In fact, Cape Keerweer means to turn around. According to Matthew Flinders, the cape was “more shallow, and did not admit to being safely approached nearer than four miles.” During April, the wind here also blows from the south-east making it both difficult to tack into the wind in shallow and dangerous waters. On the other hand, the wind was ideal for a return journey. Janszoon was also short of supplies after being at sea for nearly four months.

Sailing north, Janszoon continued past the Pennefather River until he arrived at an extensive inlet and waterway, which features three rivers: the Wenlock, Dulhunty and Ducie Rivers. After anchoring the Duyfken in Port Musgrave, Janszoon took a boat up the flooded Ducie-Dulhunty River for about 30 kilometres. Janszoon was still looking for something of value or perhaps he thought the estuary was the opening to the Pacific, which he had been instructed to find.

In 1623, Jan Carstenszoon sailed up the same river which he called Carpentier. In his journal he describes it as: “a large inlet, which men of the Duyfken in the year 1606, went into a boat, and one man was killed by the missiles of the savages.” This was the first recorded contact Europeans had made with Aboriginals. The unfortunate sailor was also the first European to die in Australia. There must have been casualties on both sides as Carstenszoon also reports that the aboriginals “have some knowledge of muskets, which they seemed to have learned to their great damage in the year 1606 from those of the Duyfken, who landed there.”

The Duyfken sailed into Torres Strait but could not navigate its way through the strait due to the numerous reefs, small islands, currents, shallow waters and sandbanks. Even today when traveling in an easterly direction through Torres Strait, the recommended speed is only a half to one knot.

Janszoon, however, was reported as “seeing an opening.” He possible sent a crewman to ascend the highest peak on the Prince of Wales Island (‘t Hooghe Eijlandt, High Island) which was 595 feet above sea level. The chart would seem to indicate that they did stop there. There are two large islands marked by Janszoon north of ‘t Hooghe Eijlandt. The largest island is actually two islands: Mulgrave and Banks. But to the east is Mt Earnest. Unless he sailed east of Banks Island, he could not have possibly sighted it. Most likely Janszoon did ascend the peak on the Prince of Wales Island. This would explain how it was possible for Janszoon to mark on his map Mt Earnest.

In a later map by Hessel Gerritsz in 1622 of the Pacific in which he included the Duyfken Chart, he wrote: “Presuming New Guinea not to stretch over the 10 degrees to the south … then the land from 9 to 14 degrees must be separate and different from the other New Guinea.” This last sentence would seem to indicate that before 1622, the Dutch believed that a strait possibly separated New Guinea and Australia.

Further north of the Mulgrave islands there is marked on the chart, Vuijle Bancken that literally means ‘dirty sandbank’. Janszoon had reached the most western reefs and shoals between the Mulgrave Islands and New Guinea. With food and supplies running low, Janszoon changed direction and sailed north west until he reached the coast of New Guinea at a place he called Tiuri. From here he turned northwest reaching landfall on the north coast of New Guinea that Janszoon called Os Papuas.

Although it is unmarked on the chart, this is also the site of the Omba River. Significantly this is the same place where natives in a subsequent voyage made by the Arnhem and the Pera in 1623 killed nine sailors. The Pera named the river, Manslaughter River. Quite possibly Janszoon’s men met with a similar fate on their return journey. Eight men were killed in New Guinea. However, it is difficult to say when they were killed. My feeling is that most, if not all of the eight men who were killed died on the return journey, as it would have been difficult to sail a ship with only half a crew for such a long period of time. It may also explain why Janszoon chose to abort any further explorations and returned back to Banda immediately without making any further stops. Apart from the lack of food and supplies, he may have had wounded and/or sick men aboard and needed to make as quick a trip back to Banda as possible.

According to Roberts, (The Dutch Explorations of the North and Northwest of Australia’), the Duyfken “most likely arrived at Banda at the end of April or early May.”

Janszoon made the first European discovery of Australia and created the first map of any part of Australia: The Duyfken Chart. For the very first time this map has been made available to the public.

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