Tuesday, December 30, 2008

rotto's first boatie

The Nijptang, the Geelvinck and the Wezeltje: doesn’t have the same ring as the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, does it?

Nevertheless, the three strangely-named Dutch boats were part of Rotto history on this day 312 years ago.

On December 30 1696 Willem de Vlamingh became the first Rotto boatie.

Actually it seems he stayed on board (grilling marron on the barbie, no doubt).

After leaving Holland at the beginning of May, someone on the Nijptang saw land on December 24.

“The descending darkness prevented the men on Geelvinck and Wezeltje to do the same and even the following day the land remained invisible due to overcast conditions and a strong current which pushed them northwards,” says this excellent page at the VOC Historical Society.

“It would still take another five days, on 29 December, that an island was sighted. Late in the afternoon the island, located at Latitude 32°S was reached. Because of the lateness of the day the investigation of the island had to wait until the following day.”

Then, on December 30, de Vlamingh bit the bullet and used a Nijptang boat, to sail around the island. A boat from the Geelvinck landed on Rotto: on board were the First Mate, the bookkeeper and a dozen soldiers.

“Towards evening both groups returned. The bookkeeper reported that there were no people on the island but that there were large numbers of bosch-rotten. They had shot a number of them to show de Vlamingh. They were found to be dwarf kangaroos, a mammal still unknown in Europe at that time. In the journal of the Nijptang they were described as a kind of rat, the size of a cat, and large quantities of its excreta could be found all over the whole island.”

Then they had a squiz at the Swan River, but it was dull compared to the beautiful island.

Cue passenger landing fees, a ballot system, the Brett Heady Family Fun Centre and smoking herring.

(Pic of de Vlamingh is from Wikipedia)


  1. Anonymous11:58 AM

    Vell dat is all verry goot. I'm sorry to be a bighead, but de Vlamingh was a bit of a late fokker in 1696. Samuel Volkerson was frolicking around Rotto in 1658, and also charted it. A couple of other Dutch ships in the Houtman expedition apparently had a squiz from a distance in 1619. De Vlamingh's men discovered their axes were convenient for killing quokkas. :)

  2. "The Nijptang, the Geelvinck and the Wezeltje: doesn’t have the same ring as the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, does it?"

    It has a far better ring to it! Although a pronunciation guide would be good.