On the morning of December 15th their most urgent task was to get further out to sea.
Tasman had not called the Cape “Clyppige Hoek” (Rocky Point) because it consisted of rolling dunes. It is a tangle of reefs, shallows, rocks, and pinnacles.
They were in a dangerous position.
From their location at anchor, the rocks on Clyppige Hoek formed an obstacle to their North, and to the South were cliffs right back to Punakaiki. This was a lee shore, with a south-westerly current and a prevailing south-westerly wind. They needed to move further out to sea to give themselves room to manoeuvre and options should the conditions change.
With the first breeze of the day they made their way out to open sea, and then turned north. Level with the Cape, Tasman described a prominent landmark.
“northward from this point extends a large rocky reef; on this reef, projecting from the sea, there are a number of high steep cliffs resembling steeples or sails; one mile west of this point we could sound no bottom.”
These rocks are still called “The Three Steeples”.
His mention of features like the Three Steeples was not at all incidental, it was a duty that was laid out in great detail in his written instructions.
“All the lands, islands, points, turnings, inlets, bays, rivers, shoals, banks, sands, cliffs, rocks etc., which you may meet with and pass, you will duly map out and describe, and also have proper drawings made of their appearance and shape, for which purpose we have ordered an able draughtsman to join your expedition; you will likewise carefully note in what latitude they are situated; how the coasts, islands, capes, headlands or points, bays and rivers bear from each other and by what distances they are separated; what conspicuous landmarks such as mountains, hills, trees or buildings, by which they may be recognised, are visible on them; likewise what depths and shallows, sunken rocks, projecting shoals and reefs are situated about and near the points; how and by what marks these may most conveniently be avoided; item whether the grounds or bottoms are hard, rugged, soft, level, sloping or steep; whether one should come on sounding, or not; by what land- and seamarks the best anchoring-grounds in road-steads and bays may be known; the bearings of the inlets, creeks and rivers, and how these may best be made and entered; what winds blow in these regions; the direction of the currents; whether the tides are regulated by the moon or by the winds; what changes of monsoons, rains and dry weather you observe; furthermore diligently observing and noting whatever requires the careful attention of experienced steersmen, and may in future be helpful to others who shall navigate to the countries discovered.”
Tasman’s journal was not simply a record of his adventure; its main purpose was to be a guide for the safe passage of subsequent voyagers.
Ships and cargoes were extremely valuable, and detailed knowledge of an area could reduce losses. This was the commercial driver; hence such comprehensive instructions on what details should be recorded.
Multiple copies of journals were made, and these were provided to skippers entering unfamiliar areas.
The “able draughtsman” provided by the VOC was the Ships’ merchant and trader, Isaac Gilsemans, who draw the coastal surveys and other illustrations in the journal. The charts of their discoveries were made by the expedition’s Chief Pilot, Frans Jacobszoon Visscher.
Tasman’s journal comprises three separate records of the voyage; his own written observations, the coastal surveys drawn by Gilsemans, and the charts drawn by Visscher.
As they progressed along the coast, Gilsemans recorded the skyline, and Visscher mapped the coast.
Tasman recorded the latitude of Clyppige Hoek as 41° 50’s. Their ability to measure latitude is quite remarkable considering they had only a cross staff or a hoekboog; the latitude given is wrong by just 9km. Visscher located the point on his on his chart of the coast.
With these three pieces of information, anyone in this latitude, and approaching from the west, would be able to identify where they were with complete confidence.
At noon on December 15th they were abreast of the Cape, and Tasman wrote “As we still saw this high land extend to north-north-east of us we from here held our course due north”. He was looking across the Karamea Bight.
The most distant land he could see was the point of Kahurangi, where the line of the coast turns from north-south to south-west to north-east. Tasman called it Steijle Hoek, Steep Point. Clyppige Hoek and Steijle Hoek are only 100 km apart, but the conditions were so calm that it took them over a day to cover the distance
They sailed through the night and at daybreak they were level with the township of Karamea, By midday on December 16th they were abreast the Heaphy River mouth, where Tasman recorded an ‘observed’ latitude of 40° 58′, and an ‘average’ longitude of 189° 54′.
This is the full journal entry for December 15th, 1642.
In the morning with a light breeze blowing from the land we weighed anchor and did our best to run out to sea a little, our course being north-west by north; we then had the northernmost low-lying point of the day before, north-north-east and north-east by north of us. This land consists of a high double mountain-range, not lower than Ilha Formoza. At noon Latitude observed 41° 40′, Longitude 189° 49′; course kept north-north-east, sailed 8 miles; the point we had seen the day before now lay south-east of us, at 2½ miles distance; northward from this point extends a large rocky reef; on this reef, projecting from the sea, there are a number of high steep cliffs resembling steeples or sails; one mile west of this point we could sound no bottom. As we still saw this high land extend to north-north-east of us we from here held our course due north with good, dry weather and smooth water. From the said low point with the cliffs, the land makes a large curve to the north-east, trending first due east, and afterwards due north again. The point aforesaid is in Latitude 41° 50′ south. The wind was blowing from the west. It was easy to see here that in these parts the land must be very desolate; we saw no human beings nor any smoke rising; nor can the people here have any boats, since we did not see any signs of them; in the evening we found 8° North-East variation of the compass.
As they rounded Cape Foulwind, and crossed the Karamea Bight Tasman made the note that: “we saw no human beings nor any smoke rising; nor can the people here have any boats”.
In these observations he was quite wrong. There were people there, and they did have boats.