Being a bit of a Van Diemen

It’s rare for a region to change its name from one European explorer to another, but that’s exactly what happened with Tasmania. The territory’s name officially changed from Van Diemen’s Land on 1st January 1856.

I have yet to make it to Australia, a fact that echoes the actions of Abel Tasman. Sent out from modern Indonesia in 1642 by Van Diemen, governor-general of the Dutch East Indies, Tasman completely failed to find the Great South Land. This is somewhat of a feat for something the size of Australia (or New Holland as it was originally named by its Dutch explorers). He did become the first European to sight the island to its south which he named for his master.

Van Diemen only lived for another three years, but his name does live on in the form of a gulf on the north coast of Australia close to Darwin (named of course for Charles).

Tasman went on to be the first to sight Fiji (lucky him), and to map vast areas of the Pacific Ocean including New Zealand. In all this exploratory zeal it’s easy to forget that though Tasman and his crew were the first Europeans to sight these lands, humans had reached them many thousands of years before. It is believed aboriginal Australians have been in New Holland for 50,000 years (European races only split from Asian populations around 24,000 years ago); the inhabitants of Fiji for roughly 4,000 years; and the Maori in New Zealand relative newcomers having been settled for only 400 years before the arrival of Europeans to their islands.
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