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Tasman was confident that they had rounded the northernmost tip of this new land and was heading out into the open Pacific Ocean. Accordingly, he named the land that they were leaving behind visit

The farthest north you can get on a regular commercial flight is Svalbard Airport, Longyear, on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, located around halfway between the North Pole and the European mainland.

“This is the second Land along which we sailed and which we discovered and we have given to it the name of Staten Landt in honour of the High and Mighty Lords the States [General] since it might well be (though this is not certain) that it is connected with the Staten Landt”
 Visscher’s chart of New Zealand up to the night December 19th, 1642

This is Tasman’s chart of New Zealand contained in the manuscript held at the Dutch National Archive (north on this chart is to the left of the page). The title of this chart reads: “Staete landt: this and was made and discovered by the ships Heemskerck and Zeehaen, the Hon. Abel Tasman commander, A.D. 1642, the 13th of December.”

‘Staten Landt’ was a very important and well-known landmark and used to find the route into the Pacific ocean from the Atlantic. It lay to the south of the mainland of South America, on the Atlantic side. It was discovered in 1616 when Schouten and le Maire traversed the Pacific. In order to avoid the Spanish Vessels patrolling the Magellan Strait they had continued South down the coast of Tierra Del Fuego, and discovered a passage leading to the southernmost part of South America. They named it ‘Cape Horn’, though it was later discovered to be an island.

This passage to Cape Horn lay between Tierra Del Fuego, and the land they named ‘Staten Landt’. It is now known as the Le Maire Strait.

 Le Maire’s chart of Staten Landt

This piece of a chart, from Schoutens book “Novi freti, a parte meridionali freti Magellanici, in magnum mare australe detectio;” 1619, shows Staten Landt as a discrete land mass, not an Island.

To round Cape Horn you followed the coast South, passed through this gap and then followed the coast into the Pacific ocean. It is not connected to mainland South America, and at the time Tasman set sail it was believed to be a part of the Great Southern Continent.

Tasman thought that the land they were now leaving behind was another part of that same piece of land and named the country “Staten Landt”. He also thought it to be a piece of theGreat South Land he’d been sent out to find… “we trust that this is the mainland coast of the unknown South land.”

He was mistaken, but this wouldn’t be known until Cook circumnavigated the land in 1769/1770.

At the same time as Tasman was exploring the Pacific Ocean for the Great Southern continent, another VOC expedition was exploring around the Southern tip of South America.

In 1642-1643 Hendrik Brouwer lead an expedition of 5 ships around Cape Horn. Brouwer was one of the VOC’s most acclaimed commanders and had pioneered the faster route from the Cape of Good Hope to Batavia that had lead to the VOC discovery of the Australian coast. A long term goal of the VOC was to carry gold and silver from Chile to Europe, but to do that they needed a Chilean base from which to operate. Brouwer was to establish a settlement at Valdivia in Southern Chile, an outpost abandoned by the Spanish. Brouwer however encountered great difficulty in passing around Cape Horn. As a result of being blown off course he discovered that what was then known as ‘Staten Landt’ was in fact an island.

In 1643 the journals of both expeditions were returned to the VOC Head Office in Amsterdam, along with the navigators’ notes and charts. It was then realised that the land Tasman had discovered was clearly not “connected with the Staten Landt”. The first European name bestowed on the land Tasman discovered turned out to be a mistake, and a new one was sought.

The VOC was managed by a 17 man Board of Governors known as the “Heeren 17”. Many of the new lands and features discovered in the course of their business were named after the aspects of this company and its governing board. For example, what we now call “Tasmania” was originally named after the VOC governor in Batavia, “Van Diemen’s Land”.

Of the Heeren 17, 6 came from the province of Amsterdam, 4 came from the province of Zeeland, and the remaining seven from various provinces. The new name reflected where the Heeren 17 originated. “New Amsterdam” was already in use in North America (the British would re-name that settlement “New York” in 1664) so they gave Tasman’s new land the name “Nieuw Zeeland” after the Dutch province of that name, and home to four of the Governing members.

News of this newly discovered land, and the name “Nieuw Zeeland” did not remain a VOC secret for very long.

In 1657, Dutch mapmaker Jan Janssonius created a major new world atlas. It comprised 5 sheets, one of which was a polar view of the Earth centered on the South Pole. On this sheet Janssonius included all the southern territories known to that date by the VOC; the Australian mainland, Tasmania, and New Zealand. He also showed what was formerly known as “Staten Landt” as a discrete island; “Staten Eylandt”

 Visscher’s chart of New Zealand up to the night December 19th, 1642

Polus Antarcticus cum regionibus subjacentibus et maribus illum alluentibus (“The Antarctic pole with the adjoining regions and seas flowing near it.”). From Atlantis majoris quinta pars… the fifth part of the 1657 Atlas Major by Jan Janssonius (1588-1664).

The place labels he drew on his map were in Latin, and the name he placed on New Zealand was; “Nova Zeelandia”. In English, the name given to Tasman’s new land was “New Zeeland”.

It was one error that gave the land its first European name, “Staten Landt”, and another which gave it its current name “New Zealand”.

James Cook was an extraordinary navigator, explorer and chronicler. When he sailed into the Pacific he had with him a copy of Alexander Dalrymple’s book “An Historical Collection of the Several Voyages and Discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean”. It was published in April 1769 and included a partial text of Tasman’s journal which was copied from that published by Valentyn in 1726. The Valentyjn text still refered to the country as “Nova Zeelandia”, but by the time Dalrymple related it, the spelling had been corrupted to to “New Zealand”

In his journal of his first Pacific Voyage, Cook consistently referred to the land as “New Zealand” and its occupants “New Zealanders”. Cook’s discoveries became the primary source of information about this new land, and as such the name “New Zealand” became the standard way (in Great Britain) to reference it.

The enduring name “New Zealand” is the result of a spelling mistake.


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