The Fiji Museum - Virtual Museum

Abel Tasman

In 1642 Tasman set sail from Batavia (Jakarta) to search for exploitable southern lands and to determine if there might be a sea passage across the Pacific to South America. After sighting and ‘naming’ Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and Staten Landt (Aotearoa/New Zealand), Tasman sailed on to Tonga before turning westward to return to Batavia. On the way, he came across the north-eastern reefs and islands of Fiji.

Plagued by storm, Tasman could not land, his ships miraculously escaping wreck on the Nanuku Reef (or Heemskercq Shoals) before winning clear. Tasman's risky encounter with the Fiji reef mazes scared off other mariners and more than 130 years passed before European vessels again braved the perilous waters of what he called the Prins Wyllems Islands.

The dotted line on the first map shows the path Tasman's two ships took, sailing from west to east through Fiji waters. The second map shows the areas mapped by Tasman during his 1642 and 1644 expeditions, areas that hadn't been known to Europeans before this time.

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