Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Dirk Wos Heere
In October 1616, after a long and arduous traverse of the Indian Ocean, a 700 tonne trading ship, Eendracht, of the Dutch East India Company (the VOC) came “unexpectedly” upon some islands. It was not completely unusual for the Dutch to sight Australia if they had been blown off course or had become lost on their crossing of the vast Indian Ocean.
Skipper of the vessel, Theodoric Hertoge (Dirk Hartog) however, came ashore. It has since been established that this was actually the second European landing on the Australian mainland after his countryman, Willem Janszoon, landed near Cape York ten years prior.
Unimpressed and behind schedule, Hartog nailed a pewter plate to a post and set off to his destination of Batavia (now Jakarta). That plate was later rediscovered and replaced and the original transported back to Amsterdam by another Dutch mariner in 1696. It is now a coveted artefact in the Rijksmuseum.
The island that now bears his name forms a natural, 15 kilometre long sea wall that shelters the azure waters of Shark Bay, now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
In 1969 the island was purchased by Sir Thomas Wardle, an ex-Lord Mayor and one-time grocery millionaire from Perth and is now maintained by his grandson, Kieran, where he operates a successful eco-tourism lodge and fishing retreat.