Days of Yore
Wreck sheds new light on N. Zealand history
WELLINGTON, New Zealand _ Scientists believe New Zealand’s oldest known shipwreck is a Dutch vessel built in the early 1600s, a legacy of the race to colonize the country decades before James Cook’s discovery expedition.
“It was a period of European expansion and exploration,” the science magazine Nature quotes Jonathan Palmer, a scientist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, as saying. Palmer led a team that studied wood recovered in 1983 from a mussel-encrusted structure off New Zealand’s North Island. It identified 2 kinds of tropical wood leading Palmer to estimate the ship was built in the early 1700s and was most likely Dutch. The tropical woods come from Southeast Asia where the Dutch East India Company was active throughout the 17th century.
There are no records of a Dutch expedition to New Zealand in the late 17th or early 18th century. But Palmer suggests competition among naval powers might have kept many voyages secret.
Abel Janszoon Tasman (1603-1659), a Dutch seafarer, explorer and merchant working for the United East India Company was the first known European explorer to reach the islands now known as Tasmania and New Zealand (see map). Driven by profit motives, the Dutch saw little to be gained in either Australia or New Zealand and found the natives most uncooperative. Many years later, James Cook _ who made 3 voyages to the Pacific Ocean _ who claimed the islands for the British crown.