Jun 142016
 

The Perth Mint is celebrating the 400th anniversary of Dutch sea captain Dirk Hartog’s landing on the west coast of Australia. If you’re at all hazy on the history, here’s why we think it’s such a significant event.

  • Hartog’s landing pre-dated Captain James Cook’s famous exploration of the east coast by more than 150 years.
  • It was the first documented visit by any European in this part of the world.
  • By leaving behind proof of his landing in the shape of an inscribed pewter plate, Hartog created the oldest European object ever found on Australian soil.

Yet the whole remarkable episode was effectively an accident!

Dirk Hartog was skipper of a Dutch East India Company vessel called Eendracht. In 1616, he was sailing for Bantam, a trading city located in western Java.

Traditionally, ships stayed close to the coast in a protracted journey around Africa and India. But a few years earlier, a new route had been pioneered using the ‘Roaring Forties’, strong westerly winds at 40 degrees south, for a much faster passage across the Indian Ocean.

In an age before any reliable calculation of longitude was available, navigators had to estimate where to turn northwards for the run up to Java. Inevitably, some East Indiamen sailed too far and it was only a matter of time before one of them inadvertently ran into ‘Terra Australis Incognita’.

Hartog claimed the honour on 25 October when he anchored at the continent’s most westerly tip – an island that formed part of a large, shallow inlet later named Shark Bay by the English explorer/privateer William Dampier.

Hartog spent two days exploring the area before sailing northwards, charting the coastline which was subsequently referred to as ‘Eendrachtsland’ by the Dutch East India Company.

Before leaving, Hartog left his famed pewter plate inscribed with “1616, on 25 October, arrived the ship the Eendracht of Amsterdam” and names of some of those on board. Originally nailed to an oak post inserted in a crack on Cape Inscription, it’s probable that no one laid eyes on it for another 80 years until the arrival of Willem de Vlamingh.

Hartog_plate

Dirk Hartog’s pewter plate. Image supplied by Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

This Dutch sea-captain, the first European to venture up the Zwaanenrivier (Swan River) past the present day site of Perth, arrived on Dirk Hartog Island early in 1697. During his exploration he found the plate and replaced it with a new one inscribed with the text from the original and details of his own voyage.

By delivering Hartog’s plate to the Dutch authorities in Batavia (Jakarta), de Vlamingh played a crucial role in its safeguarding. A fascinating reminder of the role played by Dutch navigators in the charting of Australia, this astonishing relic is now preserved by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Equally valued in Australia as the oldest physical evidence of European contact with the continent, a replica can be seen at the Western Australian Museum – Shipwreck Galleries, Fremantle.

400th Anniversary Commemoration

Western Australia and the Netherlands will be marking the story of Dirk Hartog at Shark Bay between 21 and 25 October 2016.

DirkHartog_coin-case

Issued by The Perth Mint, the Australian commemorative coin is housed in presentation packaging accompanied by a numbered Certificate of Authenticity.

As part of the commemorations, copies of Hartog’s plate and the plate that Willem de Vlamingh replaced it with in 1697 will be embedded at the original site where visitors will benefit from new interpretive panels.

Representative of Dutch ships of the era, the Duyfken will also embark on a six-week journey along Western Australia’s coast during which she will be open for public tours.

For details of these events and more, please visit www.sharkbay1616.com.au.

DH-LOGO-DATES

Courtesy of the Shire of Shark Bay

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Mar 162016
 

This medallion in The Perth Mint historic collection portrays Matthew Flinders, an exceptional navigator and explorer who made remarkable contributions to the European discovery and naming of Australia.

Born on this day (16 March) in 1774, Flinders joined the Royal Navy at the age of 15. Between 1791 and 1793 he served as a midshipman on a voyage to Tahiti under Captain William Bligh, who later became Governor of New South Wales.

Flinders’ first sailed for the colony himself in 1795 where he explored Botany Bay and George’s River with his close friend, George Bass. In 1798/9, the pair famously circumnavigated Van Diemen’s Land in the sloop Norfolk, proving it to be an island. The strait separating the future Tasmania from the mainland was named in honour of Bass and the largest island in Bass Strait would be named Flinders Island.

Flinders-medal

Recognising Flinders’ outstanding abilities, the British Admiralty in 1801 gave him command of Investigator, a 334-ton sloop, in which to chart the whole Australian coastline – large parts of which remained a mystery to European explorers.

In an extraordinary incident while sailing along the unknown southern coast, he sighted the French corvette Le Géographe under Captain Nicolas Baudin. Despite deep hostility between their two nations, Flinders boarded his rival’s vessel where their meeting was reported as cordial. The location is known as Encounter Bay.

Despite Investigator’s increasing unseaworthiness during the epic voyage, Flinders became the first commander to circumnavigate the continent then comprising New South Wales and New Holland.

Subsequently he was subject to extraordinary misfortune. In 1803 he boarded HMS Porpoise under the command of Lieutenant Fowler, bound for England. But the ship grounded and sank on the Great Barrier Reef. With superb skill, Flinders navigated the ship’s cutter 800 miles back to Sydney and arranged for the rescue of the marooned crew.

His second attempt to return home was even more fraught. Once again he found himself in command of a ship in poor condition, making it necessary for the Cumberland to put into the French controlled Isle de France (Mauritius) for repairs. With Britain back at war with her European neighbour, the suspicious French governor thought he was a spy and detained Flinders indefinitely – delaying his journey by more than six years!

Flinders eventually arrived home in 1810 and set to finalising his journal A Voyage to Terra Australis for publication. Ignoring the terms New South Wales and New Holland, he declared a preference for ‘Australia’ so that the whole of the Southern Land could be known by one name in a manner similar to “the names of other the great portions of the earth.”

On 19 July 1814, the day after the book was published, Matthew Flinders died of kidney failure, aged 40. He never knew his recommendation of ‘Australia’ was formally adopted by the Admiralty a decade later after having consistently been used by no less a figure than Governor Macquarie.

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Sep 302014
 

The Adventure of the Gloria Scott, by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of 56 short stories featuring detective Sherlock Holmes.

The story of the Gloria Scott came to light after Sherlock spent a month with his university friend, Victor Trevor. During his stay, Sherlock exercised his powers of deduction to uncover a secret from the family’s past.

Gloria-Scott_1oz-silver-coin

Dedicated to Sherlock Holmes and the story of the Gloria Scott, this very limited coin is from the popular Famous Ships That Never Sailed series.

In his youth, Victor’s father was convicted of fraud and sent to Australia aboard a ship called the Gloria Scott. Whilst on route, he discovered a conspiracy among some of the prisoners to take over the ship. Several crew members died as a result of the ensuing revolt, and the instigator of the takeover, Jack Prendergast, wanted to murder all of the Gloria Scott’s remaining crew to cover his tracks.

Victor’s father and several other prisoners did not wish to partake in cold-blooded murder, so they asked to be set adrift in a small boat, to make their own way to Australia.

Not long after the small boat had departed, the Gloria Scott exploded. Victor’s father and the others adrift on the small vessel rowed back to search for survivors. They found only one, a man named Hudson.

Once they reached Australia, the drifters changed their names and embarked on a new way of life as free men, before eventually returning to England. Victor’s father had lived a safe and peaceful existence until Hudson turned up on his doorstep, attempting to blackmail him and other members of the mutinous crew. When he received a letter informing him that Hudson had told the police about the Gloria Scott, Victor’s father suffered a stroke and died.

Gloria-Scott-coin_display-caseStruck by The Perth Mint from 1oz of 99.9% pure silver in proof quality, this coin’s reverse portrays a representation of the Gloria Scott sailing, with Sherlock Holmes sitting onshore smoking his pipe.

Presented in a wooden case moulded in the shape of a book, no more than 3,000 Famous Ships That Never Sailed – Gloria Scott 2014 1oz Silver Proof Coins will be released.

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Aug 042014
 

The Year of the Horse is in full stride and among the new releases featured in August’s Bulletin are three inspiring coins featuring Australian horses and horsemanship.

The Land Down Under – 2014 Australian Stockman

The latest 1/4oz pure gold and 1oz pure silver releases from this iconic series immortalise the mounted stockmen who pioneered Australia’s unforgiving outback. Both designs portray wonderful designs of a stockman riding his horse.

The Australian Stock Horse 2014 5oz Gold Proof Coin

This truly magnificent release is dedicated to the Australian Stock Horse, known for its calm temperament, strength and courage, qualities that helped it thrive in the challenging conditions of the bush.

Other superb new releases in August comprise:

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Jul 232014
 

The correct answer to our latest Mystery Coin competition is:

Ships That Changed The World – Cutty Sark 2012 1oz Silver Proof Coin.

Cutty_Sark

Cutty Sark‘s name derives from Robert Burns’ famous poem Tam O’ Shanter about a farmer called Tam who is chased by a witch dressed only in a ‘cutty sark’ – an old Scottish name for a short nightdress. The witch was portrayed as a figurehead on Cutty Sark’s bow.

The famous ship was badly damaged by fire in 2007 while undergoing conservation, but has since been restored and was reopened to the public in Greenwich, London in April 2012.

Built in 1869, Cutty Sark was one of the fastest clippers to transport tea from China to London. But with the growing success of steam ships on the shorter Suez Canal route, she turned to the trade in wool from Australia, where she held the record time to Britain for 10 years.

Congratulations to the following winners who submitted correct answers on Facebook or email (via the blog post):

  • Stephen Grieshaber
  • Harbeen Kaur
  • Heidi Layland
  • Vicki Emanuel
  • Steve Garlesky

If you didn’t win this time, please watch our Facebook page and blog for another Mystery Coin competition in the not too distant future.

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Dec 052013
 

The Charlotte medal in silver is believed to have been engraved on board the First Fleet transport Charlotte as she lay at anchor in Botany Bay before sailing into Port Jackson and unloading her cargo of convicts at Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788.

Inscribed with an account of the voyage from England and an image of the Charlotte, it is acclaimed as Australia’s first colonial work of art, and furthermore, as a unique record of the arrival of the settlers who founded modern Australia.

Charlotte_medal_silver

ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of the Australian Government through the National Cultural Heritage Account

The 74mm wide medal is believed to have been made from a surgical dish by convicted thief Thomas Barrett at the behest of John White, the ship’s surgeon. White wanted a memento of the historic landing and chose Barrett for the task after he’d displayed remarkable skill at forging coins during the arduous sea voyage.

Alas, Barrett lasted little more than a month in the convict colony, meeting his fate at the end of a hangman’s rope for stealing beef and peas. Not only was he responsible for the historic silver medal, but also a smaller copper version, thought to have been commissioned by White’s personal servant, William Broughton.

Charlotte_medal_copperr

Image courtesy of Noble Numismatics and Ian M. L. Armstrong.

Material for the second medal could have come from copper sheathing used to protect the ship’s hull. The finished piece measured 47mm in diameter and featured an abridged form of the inscription on the silver medal, but no ship.

Sailed the Charlotte of London from spit head the 13 of May 1787. Bound for Botany Bay in the Island of new holland Arriv’d at Teneriff the 4th June in Lat 28.13N Long 16.23 W depart’d it 10 Dec arriv’d at rio janeiro 6 of Aug in Lat 22.54 S Long 42.38 W depart’d it the 5 of Sept arriv’d at the Cape of good hope the 14 Octr in Lat 34.29 S Lon S 18.29 E depart’d it th 13 of Nov and made the South Cape of New Holland the ‘8 of Jany 1788 in Lat 43.32 S Long 146.56E arrived Botany Bay the 20 of Jany the Charlotte in Co in Lat 34.00 South Long 151.00 East distance from Great Britain miles 13106.

The silver Charlotte medal belonging to surgeon John White, who returned to England, remained unknown until it appeared in the famous collection of the Marquess of Milford Haven. Details were published in 1919 in the first volume covering his collection of naval medals.

William Broughton remained in the colony, rising to become an official of significant stature in the Government of New South Wales. His copper Charlotte medal was discovered during the 1940s on the site of a farm in Camden with which he was associated.

According to rare coin specialist Noble Numismatics, if the silver Charlotte medal is one of the most significant and rare items associated with the First Fleet, then the copper Charlotte medal must rank as equal in rarity and significance.

Where are the Charlotte medals now?

The Australian National Maritime Museum (with help from the National Cultural Heritage Account) made the winning bid at auction of $750,000 for the silver Charlotte medal in 2008. It is can be seen on display in the Museum, which is located in Sydney’s Darling Harbour.

The copper Charlotte medal is currently for sale via Noble Numismatics.

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