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Dirk Hartog Landing Site 1616 - Cape Inscription Area, Dirk Hartog Island, WA, Australia

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List National Heritage List
Class Historic
Legal Status Listed place (06/04/2006)
Place ID 105808
Place File No 5/14/193/0014
Summary Statement of Significance
Few places on the Australian coastline compare with Cape Inscription in terms of its associations with a number of prominent early explorers and surveyors, and in respect to the surviving physical evidence of early exploration.
 
Cape Inscription is the site of the oldest known landings of Europeans on the Western Australian coastline, and is associated with a series of landings and surveys by notable explorers over a 250 year period.  The first known European landing on the west coast of Australia was by Dirk Hartog of the Dutch East India Company's ship the Eendracht at Cape Inscription on 25 October 1616.  Hartog left a pewter plate, inscribed with a record of his visit and nailed to a post left standing upright in a rock cleft on top of the cliff.  This plate is the oldest extant record of a European landing in Australia.  Hartog's discovery had a major impact on world cartography.  After leaving the Island, he sailed northwards charting the coastline of Western Australia to 22 degrees south.  As a result, a known part of the coastline of Western Australia appeared on world maps for the first time, replacing the mythical southern continent of ‘Terra Australis Incognita’
 
Dirk Hartog's plate was recovered by Willem de Vlamingh during his voyage of discovery in 1697.  He in turn left a pewter plate inscribed with a record of his visit.  The plate left by Vlamingh was in turn found in 1801 by Baron Emanuel Hamelin, a member of Nicolas Baudin's French expedition, who left the plate in place and added his own inscription on a piece of lead sheet, nailed to the post.  Vlamingh’s plate was subsequently removed to Paris by Louis de Freycinet, one of Hamelin's junior officers, when he returned to Cape Inscription in his own ship in 1818. 
 
The British navigator and naturalist, William Dampier landed near Cape Inscription, in 1699.  Dampier named Shark Bay, and made the first scientific collection of Australian plants which is still preserved at Oxford University.  The species of plants that Dampier collected still flourish at Dampier Landing.
 
The French navigator Francois de Saint-Allouarn landed close to Cape Inscription in 1772. He buried two bottles, one of which contained a parchment with a written statement claiming the land for France. Two silver coins were placed below lead seals on the tops of the bottles.  One of these bottles, together with the coin and lead seals, was recovered in 1998.
 
The British navigator, Philip Parker King, also left a record of his visit in 1822 when he spelled out his name using nails hammered into Hamelin's post, and the HMS Herald under the command of Henry Mangles Denham charted the Island and Shark Bay in 1858 for the first British Admiralty charts of the area.
 
The lighthouse and quarters built at Cape Inscription in 1908/09 are also significant for their association with the development and operation of the coastal navigation system in Western Australia in the early 20th century, and in particular the manned operation of remote lighthouses and the living and working conditions experienced by light keepers posted to remote stations.
 
Official Values
Criterion A Events, Processes
Cape Inscription is the site of the oldest known landings of Europeans on the western coast of the Australian continent, and is associated with a series of landings and surveys by notable explorers over a 250 year period.    Few places on the Australian coastline compare with Cape Inscription in terms of its associations with these prominent early explorers and surveyors:
Dirk Hartog in 1616;
Willem de Vlamingh in 1697;
William Dampier in 1699;
Francois de Saint-Allouarn in 1772;
Baron Emanuel Hamelin in 1801;
Louis de Freycinet in 1818;
Philip Parker King in 1822; and
Captain Henry Mangles Denham in 1858.
 
These landings had a profound effect on cartography and profoundly changed 18th century European worldview.  As knowledge of the southern continent grew this led to French expeditions, such as Baudin’s and deFreycinet’s, whose primary purpose was one of discovery and scientific examination of the new continent and its flora and fauna.
 
The site comprises the cleft in the rock of the cliff top in which Hartog, Vlamingh, Hamelin, King, and Denham left memorials, the beach at Turtle Bay on which St Allouarne landed and the Dampier landing site at the beach on the south-eastern side of Cape Levillain.
Criterion B Rarity
The Cape Inscription area displays uncommon aspects of Australia’s cultural history because of the cumulative effect its association with these explorers and surveyors had on growing knowledge of the great southern continent in Europe.  The association of the site with these early navigators stimulated the development of the European view of the great southern continent at a time when they began to look at the world with a modern scientific outlook:
 
Dampier’s collection of plants marked the beginnings of scientific interest in Australian botany; 
 
The methodical collection of knowledge scientifically based on Australian botanical and zoological specimens and their taxonomic classification was commenced; and
 
The growing interest in Australia stimulated by the discovery and charting of the Western Australian coastline led to expeditions of scientific discovery, such as those of Baudin and de Freycinet, specifically sent to explore and accumulate knowledge of the new continent.
 
Criterion D Principal characteristics of a class of places
The site has a special association with the work of a large group of early navigators.  As a group, the work of these early navigators in the exploration and surveys of the Western Australian coastline around Cape Inscription was the first to accurately delineate the margins of the previously unknown ‘Terra Australis Incognita’.  This process changed world cartography and these navigators literally put Australia on the map, through:
 
Dirk Hartog’s chart of 1616;
 
Victor Victorszoon’s chart of 1697 drawn during Vlamingh’s voyage;
 
The French charts drawn by Ensign Rosily during the St Allouarne voyage in 1772, and by Hamelin and Baudin  during their expedition in 1801;
 
Philip Parker King’s chart of 1822; and
 
Captain Denham’s chart of 1858.
 
Criterion H Significant people
The site has a special association with the work of a large group of early navigators.  As a group, the work of these early navigators in the exploration and surveys of the Western Australian coastline around Cape Inscription was the first to accurately delineate the margins of the previously unknown ‘Terra Australis Incognita’.  These navigators changed world cartography and literally put Australia on the map, notably through:
 
Dirk Hartog’s chart of 1616;
 
Victor Victorszoon’s chart of 1697 drawn during Vlamingh’s voyage;
 
The French charts drawn by Ensign Rosily during the St Allouarne voyage in 1772, and by Hamelin and Baudin  during their expedition in 1801;
 
Philip Parker King’s chart of 1822; and
 
Captain Denham’s chart of 1858.
 
Growing interest in Australia stimulated by the charting of greater stretches of coastline led to an extension of European scientific knowledge through the collection and classification of Australian specimens, many collected by expeditions sent to the continent specifically for the purpose of extending this knowledge.
 
Description
Dirk Hartog Island forms the western edge of Shark Bay, a shallow embayment at the southern end of the Carnarvon Basin.  The island is a continuation of the Edel Land Peninsula, from which it is separated by a narrow channel called South Passage.  Geologically the island is a continuation of the belt of Tamala limestone which extends along the lower west coast of Western Australia.  The western side of the island, including Cape Inscription, is bordered by steep limestone cliffs, with discontinuous beaches.  Turtle Bay has a wide beach and is the site of the jetty (now ruined) that serviced the light-house.  Dampier Landing, south of Cape Levillain, is situated at a beach backed by low sand dunes.  The surface of the island is covered by sands, with large mobile dunes at the southern end.  There is no surface fresh water on the island, and vegetation generally consists of low eucalypts, acacias and Triodia hummock grasses.
 
The whole of Dirk Hartog Island, including the nominated site, lies within the boundary of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area.  The Shark Bay World Heritage Area has been inscribed on the World Heritage List for its outstanding universal natural heritage values as an example representing major stages in the earth's evolutionary history, and significant ongoing ecological and biological processes. 
 
The Cape Inscription area, but not the whole of the area presently nominated, is also covered by Crown Reserves:
 
Reserve 12715 comprises approximately 3,490 m2 covering the immediate inscription posts site;
 
Reserve 45498 comprises approximately 7441 m2 covering the site of the present lighthouse;
 
Reserve 46663 comprises approximately 8668 m2 covering the site of the ruins of the lighthouse keeper’s quarters; and
 
Reserve 14918 comprising approximately 298 hectares from a point on the north-west coast of the cape, running approximately north-west to south-east a distance of about 3510 metres, then turning at an angle of 90º to run approximately north-north-east a distance of about 397 metres to the northern coast, thereafter following the mean low water mark around the coast to the point of origin, but excluding the area of the three Reserves noted above.
 
The remainder of the Island outside the Reserves is privately leased under pastoral Lease No. 175 of 1983.
 
Additionally, the Western Australian Museum has jurisdiction over the inscription posts site covered by Reserve 12715 and the St Allouarne landing site covered by Reserve 14918, both of which are protected under Section 4 of the Western Australian Maritime Archaeology Act 1973.
 
Dirk Hartog Island has been the subject of a number of overlapping National Native Title claims by the Amatji Marlpa Barna Baba Maaja Aboriginal Corporation:
 
Malgarna #1, Tribunal Registration number WC98/6.  Status: Withdrawn;
 
Malgarna #2, Tribunal Registration number WC98/47.  Status: Discontinued;
 
Malgarna People, Tribunal Registration number WC98/61.  Status: Discontinued.
 
A lighthouse was erected at Cape Inscription in 1909-1910 and Lightkeepers’ quarters were constructed nearby at the same time, together with a jetty at Turtle Bay and a tramway to the lighthouse, used to bring in supplies and equipment.   Only the lighthouse has been maintained since the station was unmanned and, of the other structures, only the concrete walls of the quarters now remain. The Tower is constructed of cast concrete. It is 16.3m high to the vane, 10.4m to the gallery and is fitted with iron stairs. The gallery is 5.4m in diameter and is 37m above High Water Mark.  The quarters are of concrete and were for two men. There was a 20,000 gallon underground water tank (now destroyed).  A 70m jetty was constructed about 3kms from the light and connected to it by a 0.6m gauge tramway.  The tramway mechanism was still in place in the mid 1950s but has now been removed.  Many of the tram lines remain lying in place between Turtle Bay and the lighthouse.  The lighthouse keepers’ quarters were abandoned when the lighthouse was automated in 1917, however, the concrete walls of the lighthouse keepers’ quarters are still in good condition.  
 
A plaque commemorating the “first recorded landing of Europeans in Australia”, and including a translation of Dirk Hartog’s original inscription, was affixed to the fabric of the lighthouse by the Australian Government in 1938.
 
 
Other assessments:
 
The nominated site, in whole or in part, is listed on the following heritage registers:
 
Register of the National Estate;
 
Dirk Hartog Island, Place ID 10801, was registered on 21 March 1978 for its natural heritage values, although the assessment included specific references to the historic sites, including the Inscription Post site.
 
The Cape Inscription Lightstation, Place Id 19865, was also inscribed on 21 March 1978 for its historic heritage values in demonstrating methods of dealing with hazards and disasters in shipping to and from Australian ports.
 
Heritage Council of WA – Register of Heritage Places;
 
Inscription Post site, Data Base number 3261.
 
Register of the National Trust of Australia (WA);
 
Inscription Post site (listed December 2000).
 
Local Government Municipal Inventory;
 
Inscription Post site was entered on the Municipal Inventory for the Shire of Shark Bay, as Place number 36, on 30 January 1997.
 
World Heritage List (Shark Bay Area), Place ID 19791.
 
Additionally, part of the nominated site is covered by the Reserves noted above.
 
History
The first known European landing on the west coast of Australia was by Dirk Hartog of the Dutch East India Company's - Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) ship the Eendracht.  Hartog had been following the sailing route across the southern Indian Ocean established by Brouwer in 1611 (Schilder 1985: p.49) but had sailed too far to the east.  As a result, when he turned north to sail to Batavia he encountered the western coast of Australia, landing at Cape Inscription on 25 October 1616 (Broeze & Henderson 1986: p.14; Feeken & Feeken 1970: p.37).  Hartog left a pewter plate, inscribed with a record of his visit and nailed to a post left standing upright in a rock cleft on top of the cliff (Schilder 1985: p.50).  This plate, which is now preserved in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, is the oldest extant physical record of a European landing in Australia (Pearson 2004: p.34). 
 
After leaving Dirk Hartog Island, the Eendracht sailed northwards charting the coastline of Western Australia as far as 22º south.  By 1618 Hessel Geertisz, the VOC’s official map maker, had marked in the part of the Western Australian coastline mapped by Hartog onto the Company’s official charts as ‘t land van d’Endracht’ (Gibbs 1996: at para. 1.6). 
 
On 30 January 1697 a flotilla of three Dutch ships, sent to search for the lost VOC vessel Ridderschap van Hollant and to obtain further details of Hartog’s southland, dropped anchor in Shark Bay (Harrison 1998: p.10; Schilder 1985: p.57)).  The flotilla was under the command of Willem de Vlamingh in the Geelvinck, with the Nijptangh skippered by Gerrit Colaart and the ‘t Weseltje skippered by Willem’s son, Cornelis de Vlamingh.  The loss of Dutch vessels on the Western Australian coast, such as the Ridderschap and the Vergulde Draeck, had led to dissatisfaction with the accuracy of existing charts of the coastline (Schilder 1985: p.2), and Vlamingh’s instructions were to undertake a thorough exploration and to survey the entire coastal area up to 21º south, before proceeding through the Sunda Straits to Batavia to deliver to the Governor-General and the VOC “a written and extensive report of all their experiences during this voyage” (Schilder 1985: p.58).  It was planned that the ‘t Weseltje, with her shallow draft, could open up the coast by sailing ahead of the other vessels to survey the next stretch of coastline, and to look out for the wreckage of lost ships, evidence of survivors, and suitable anchorages and watering places (Schilder 1985: p.58).  The flotilla made landfall at Rottnest Island near present day Perth on 29 December 1696 and from then until 21 February 1697 sailed up the western coastline to the vicinity of the entrance to Exmouth Gulf.  At this point they left the coast and sailed to Batavia.  The task of drafting the majority of the coastal charts of the voyage fell to Victor Victorzoon, the medical officer on the Geelvinck.  In addition to his other tasks, Victorzoon was commissioned to paint sketches of each coastline encountered by the vessels (Schilder 1985: p.13).  These watercolour sketches, which were believed lost until 1970, are now in the Prins Hendrik Maritime Museum in Rotterdam, and are the first surviving pictorial depictions of the Australian continent (Schilder 1985: p.84).  Facsimile reproductions are now also in the Western Australian Maritime Museum (Broeze & Henderson 1986: p.15).
 
Dirk Hartog's plate was recovered during this voyage of discovery.  On 1 February 1697 two longboats from the Nijptangh and the Geelvinck were sent by Willem de Vlamingh to survey the bay and to sail round Dirk Hartog Island to find a convenient anchorage for the ships.  On 3 February, Michael Bloem, the upper steersman of the Geelvinck returned and reported an interesting discovery to the Commander.  On 2 February Bloem’s party had climbed the cliffs on the northern most point of the island, and had discovered the weathered remnants of Hartog’s post.  Nearby on the ground, lay Hartog’s pewter plate which Bloem recovered (Schilder 1985: p.68).  Hartog’s plate was returned to the Netherlands by Vlamingh and is now preserved in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
 
Vlamingh in turn left a pewter plate inscribed with a copy of Dirk Hartog's inscription, together with a record of his own visit, nailed to a second post placed in the same rock cleft as Hartog’s post (Schilder 1985: p70).
 
The British navigator and naturalist, William Dampier landed on the north-western side of the island at the place now known as Dampier Landing, near Cape Inscription, in 1699.  Dampier named Shark Bay, and made the first scientific collection of Australian plants.  Twenty four taxonomic specimens of Australian plants collected by Dampier are still in existence and are preserved in the Fielding-Druce Herbarium at Oxford University (George 1999: p.21).  His specimens represent the beginnings of scientific botany in Australia, and the species of plants that Dampier collected still flourish today at Dampier Landing.  It is remarkable that this site, which is so important to the history of botany in Australia, has remained virtually unchanged since 1699.  During his visit to the Island Dampier recorded the first description of a kangaroo, as ‘A sort of raccoon, different from that of the West Indies, chiefly as to the legs; for these have very short fore legs…’(Feeken and Feeken 1970: p.42).  He was also the first visitor to make observations about the Indigenous inhabitants of Australia, in terms that for a long period influenced European perceptions of them after his book, A New Voyage Round the World, was published in 1697 (Pearson 2004: p.49):
 
“The Inhabitants of this Country are the miserablest People in the World.  The Hodmadods of Monomatapa, though a nasty People, yet for Wealth are Gentlemen to these.  They have no Houses, or skin Garments, Sheep, Poultry, Fruits of the Earth, Ostrich eggs, &c., as the Hodmadods have.  And setting aside their Human Shape, they differ little from Brutes.” (Dampier 1697 (1998) p.218)
 
The French navigator Francois Alesno, Comte de Saint-Allouarn landed at Turtle Bay, close to Cape Inscription, in 1772.  French interest in the Pacific had increased dramatically as a result of the conclusion of the Seven Years War.  Humiliated at the Peace of Paris in 1763, when it was forced to cede Canada, its Indian interests, and all its territories east of the Mississippi River to Great Britain, France believed it could reconstruct its colonial empire and restore its prestige by revealing the unknown secrets of the southern continent (Marchant 1998: p.14).  The French believed that the information garnered by the Dutch needed to be re-examined in the light of the better 18th century tools of navigational science capable of producing more accurate results than those produced by the early Dutch navigators (Marchant 1998: p.14).  Spurred by British exploratory and scientific voyages to the South Pacific, particularly Cook’s voyage to Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus across the sun, they felt that as well as serving France they had an opportunity to serve science and make a unique and distinctive contribution to knowledge about an area becoming increasingly important with the rise in European trade with Asia and the Pacific.  This interest was encouraged by the publication of new accounts of the early explorations of Paulmier de Gonneville, who it was believed had actually discovered the great southern land as early as 1505 and claimed it for France (Marchant 1998: p.15).  Two French expeditions were despatched in 1771 and 1772 to survey separate parts of the southern Indian Ocean in an attempt to re-discover Gonneville’s land. 
 
The 1771 expedition of two ships, the Mascarin and the Marquis de Castries, under the command of Marc Joseph Marion Dufresne left Mauritius on 18 October 1771 and surveyed the southern Indian Ocean from approximately 33º east longitude in the 40º latitude belt across as far as Tasmania.  Dufresne then surveyed New Zealand, which he claimed for France (Marchant 1998: p.15).
 
The 1772 expedition left Paris under the command of Yves Joseph de Kerguelen-Tremarec, and finally sailed out of Il de France on 16 January 1772 (although named ‘Mauritius’ after Prince Maurice of Orange-Nassau when it was discovered by the Dutch in 1638, the island was renamed the ‘Il de France’ when it was claimed by the French in 1715 and only reverted to its former name of Mauritius when it was taken over by the British in 1810).  Kerguelen commanded the Fortune of 24 guns, while the Comte de Saint Allouarne was in command of the smaller Gros Ventre of 16 guns.  They intended to survey from the longitudinal position of Mauritius eastwards along the roaring forties (Marchant 1998: p.16).  On 11 February the ships came directly onto Kerguelen Island in the southern Indian Ocean.  Two days later, de Kerguelen-Tremarec, believing he had re-discovered the lost Gonneville-land, sent Saint- Allouarne in the Gross Ventre and one of his own longboats under the command of Ensign Rosily to make a close survey of the shoreline and claim the land for France.  Bad weather and fog set in, and de Kerguelen-Tremarec was forced to take the Fortune further off shore because her rigging was in a bad condition (Harrison 1998: p.13)  After two stormy nights during which heavy fog hindered communications between the ships he returned to Mauritius to report his discovery and arrange for a further expedition to colonise the land, abandoning Saint-Allouarne and Ensign Rosily and the crew of the longboat (Marchant 1998: p.16).  Deserted by his commanding officer, Saint-Allouarne decided to search for the great southern land himself.  After picking up the longboat crew abandoned by de Kerguelen-Tremarec, Saint-Allouarne beat out of the Baie d’Audierne intending to continue his exploration eastwards.  Continuing bad weather hampered his attempts to fix their position accurately and finally Saint-Allouarne decided to make for Cape Leeuwin on the Western Australian coastline to get a definite fix on his position and replenish their supplies.  The Gross Ventre sailed into Flinders Bay behind Cape Leeuwin on 17 March 1772.  After surveying the bay, which Ensign Rosily charted for the first time, Saint-Allouarne weathered Cape Leeuwin and sailed north by way of Cape Inscription and North West Cape to the vicinity of Melville Island, and thence by way of Java back to Mauritius where he was able to inform French authorities of the real nature of the land discovered by de Kerguelen-Tremarec and claimed for France (Marchant 1998: p.16).  During his voyage north, however, Saint-Allouarne made a pioneering survey of the north-western and northern coasts of Australia which up till then had been largely unexplored.  As a result, France shifted its scientific attention and survey research efforts increasingly to this region, subsequently sending a series of expeditions to the area especially to explore it (Marchant 1998: p.17).
 
While at Cape Inscription, Saint-Allouarn buried two bottles, one of which contained a parchment with a written statement claiming the land for France.  Two silver coins were placed below lead seals on the tops of the bottles.  One of the bottles, together with a coin and lead seal, were recovered in 1998 and are now in the WA Maritime Museum (McCarthy 1998: pp.2-5;  Souter 2000: pp.37-38).
 
Saint-Allouarne was a founding pioneer of modern maritime surveying of the Western Australian coastline.  Had he lived longer, he may have achieved the distinction he deserved.  He died, however, soon after arriving back in Mauritius from Western Australia and his records were never published, nor were proper charts made of the survey work he conducted.  Ensign Rosily, however, subsequently rose to prominence during the Restoration period following the fall of Napoleon and planned the campaign to establish a French colony in south-western Australia in the area annexed by Saint-Allouarne.
 
Encouraged by the work of Saint-Allouarne, as well as the voyages of la Perouse in 1775 and d’Entrecasteaux in 1791, in 1800 the Directory Government of France commissioned Thomas Nicolas Baudin to proceed to Australia with the specific purpose of charting and making a thorough scientific survey of the unknown part of Australia.  The expedition was planned to make wide ranging scientific enquiries, and twenty three scientists were appointed to the two expedition vessels, the Geographe captained by Baudin himself and the Naturaliste captained by Baron Jacques Felix Emanuel Hamelin.  In addition to cartographic, oceanographic, and hydrographic research the expedition was equipped to undertake research from anthropology to zoology on land, and from the zoology of marine life off the coast to atmospheric conditions and astronomy.  When it finally returned to Paris in 1804 the collection of specimens obtained by Baudin was gigantic, encompassing more than 1500 botanical specimens and 3900 zoological specimens.  The collection contained more specimens and more species new to science than all previous European voyages combined (Reynolds 2001: p.26), and was unique in providing French scientists with an extensive coverage of Australian terrestrial and marine flora and fauna.
 
Much of the more accurate cartographic work along the Western Australian coastline was done by Hamelin in the Naturaliste and later by one of Hamelin’s officers, Louis de Saulces de Freycinet, in the Casuarina, a schooner acquired in Sydney in 1802 to replace the Naturaliste for the purpose of undertaking close inshore surveys.  Hamelin made the first thorough survey of the Swan River area and its offshore islands in 1801, while Hamelin and de Freycinet were responsible for the first complete cartographic survey of Shark Bay and its surrounding islands, including Dirk Hartog Island.  It was while Hamelin was stationed at Dirk Hartog Island in 1801 awaiting the arrival of Baudin and the Geographe which had been surveying the area around Bernier Island and Cape Curvier that the the plate left by Vlamingh was in turn found.  Although the plate was originally removed and taken on board the Naturaliste, Hamelin decided it would be sacrilege to remove the plate from the position it had occupied for more than a century and left it in place nailed to a new post.  Hamelin also left his own inscription on a piece of lead sheet, nailed to the post.  The cartographic work accomplished by the expedition resulted in the Australian coastline west of Bass Strait along the south coast and the west and north-west coastlines being well portrayed and publicised by the French.
 
Vlamingh’s plate was subsequently removed to Paris seventeen years later by Louis de Saulces de Freycinet, who had disagreed with Hamelin’s original decision to leave the plate in place.  When he returned to Cape Inscription in his own ship, the Uranie, in 1818 he removed the plate and presented it to the Museum of the Institute of France in Paris.  The plate was subsequently returned to Australia by the French Government in 1947, and is presently in the WA Maritime Museum. 
 
The British navigator, Philip Parker King, also left a record of his visit to Cape Inscription in 1822.  King was the son of a former Governor of NSW, Philip Gidley King, and had been born in Sydney on 13 December 1791.  In 1815 Captain Thomas Hurd offered King the opportunity to complete the circumnavigation and charting of the Australian coastline left incomplete by Matthew Flinders’ 1801 voyage in HMS Investigator.  Flinder’s investigations had been abandoned off Arnhem Land in 1803 as a result of the deterioration in the state of the ship and the ill-health of his crew. 
 
The newly established Royal Navy Hydrographical Department had been set up at Hurd’s urging when the Lords of the Admiralty became aware that the Royal Navy was losing eight times more ships to shipwreck than to enemy action (Hordern 1997: p.14).  Hurd argued that modern and accurate charts of the world’s coastlines would substantially reduce these losses.  Aware that across the Channel the French were preparing to send de Freycinet back to Australia, and that his chart of 1808 had named large areas of the Australian continent as ‘Terre Napoleon’, the British Colonial Office did not want to see more French names added to newly discovered parts of the continent, and King’s departure for Sydney was hastened (Hordern 1997: pp.19-20).  King’s instructions were to pay particular attention to those parts of the coastline which Baudin’s 1800 expedition had not seen, or had viewed from too great a distance to chart effectively.  He was tasked specifically to examine minutely any opening in the coastline in search of rivers that could be used to open up the heart of the continent.  The instructions to King from Earl Bathurst, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, were precise.  He was to stake out England’s claim on the continent.  Newly discovered harbours and river mouths were to be clearly marked as the property of His Majesty, and King was at every opportunity to leave evidence that could not be mistaken of his having landed at each spot (Hordern 1997: p.20).
 
When King’s party arrived at Cape Inscription in the Bathurst on 20 January 1822 they immediately sighted the two inscription posts at the top of the cliff.  However, they were disappointed that the memorials had disappeared (Hordern 1997: p.341).  King also left a memorial at Cape Inscription.  He ordered Joseph Hanna, the ships carpenter, to prepare a small block of deal to be placed in the sheave hole in Hamelin’s post, and which was engraved with both King’s name and the name of the Bathurst.  In a small recess in the back of the deal block King placed a piece of vellum with a record of his visit.  In addition he inscribed his name and the date using nails hammered into Hamelin's post (Hordern 1997: p.343).  On return to the boat at the beach and casting off, they discovered that the grapnel had fouled on the rocky bottom and the line had to be cut, leaving the grapnel behind.  It is believed to be there still (Hordern 1997: p.343).
 
Both of the posts left by Vlamingh and Hamelin were removed to Perth in 1908 at the time of the construction of the lighthouse, and are now also in the WA Maritime Museum. 
 
As early as 1792, whalers had visited Shark Bay and by the 1830s American, British and French whaling vessels regularly harvested along the Western Australian coast.  In March 1841 the French 260 ton ship rigged whaling vessel, the Perseverant, was wrecked on the island.  The Captain and crew abandoned the hulk and set up a camp on the island.  After ten weeks on the island, during which five of the crew died of scurvy, the remaining officers and crew decided to set out for Java in four of the ship’s small boats.  The boats were separated in a gale and only one, containing the Third Mate M Estrade and three crewmen, made it to safety (Robinson 1988: p.1).  In 1976 a local stockman discovered artefacts in the dunes at the north eastern shore of the island and passed them to the Western Australian Museum.  David Hutchison, Curator of History at the Museum visited the site and collected some 100 objects, including brass buttons embossed with an anchor and the inscription ‘Equipage de Ligne’ (Robinson 1988: p.1).  In 1988, Graeme Henderson of the Western Australian Maritime Museum led a survey of the site, where a further 66 specific artefacts were described.  Amongst the items recovered was a two franc French coin dated 1823 and bearing the image of Louis XVIII (Robinson 1988: p.2).
 
Captain Henry Mangles Denham visited Cape Inscription and Shark Bay in 1858.  The voyage of HMS Herald under the command of Denham, an experienced Naval hydrographic survey officer, encompassed the south-west Pacific and substantial parts of the Australian coast.  His instructions from the Admiralty stated that Her Majesty’s Government cognisant of the rapidly increasing trade between the Australian colonies and the Western Coast of America, and moreover concerned at the inadequate knowledge possessed about the intervening navigation amongst its insulated rocks and intricate clusters of islands, required its dangers fully explored (David 1995: pp.2-3).  From 1852 to 1861, the Herald surveyed Australian and western Pacific waters, producing the first accurate Admiralty charts of a number of areas.  On 6 March 1858, Denham dropped anchor about two and a half miles east of Cape Inscription inside Shark Bay.  While there Denham found Hamelin’s post with King’s inscription nailed into it, but there was no evidence of the deal block and vellum memorial left by King.  Denham added ‘Herald 1858’ to the post below King’s inscription and left the post in situ (David 1995: p.295).
 
Continuing concern with the dangers presented to shipping, particularly sailing vessels, by the lee shore of Western Australia, induced the Western Australian Government to construct a lighthouse on Cape Inscription in 1909-1910 and which is still in operation.  Lighthouse keepers’ quarters were constructed nearby at the same time.  A jetty at Turtle Bay and a 3 mile long 2 foot gauge tramway was used to bring in supplies and equipment to the lighthouse.  The tramway extended down the cliff slope to the jetty, supplies and equipment being hauled up this steep tramway using a horse winch.  While the jetty was destroyed during a storm in 1937, much of the tramway was still in place in the mid 1950s and many of the tram lines still remain lying in place between Turtle Bay and the lighthouse.  The lighthouse was taken over by the Commonwealth in 1915, and the keepers’ quarters were abandoned at the time when the lighthouse was automated on 4 May 1917 when an acetylene lantern was fitted.  Acetylene gas was discovered in 1832, and between 1900 and 1910 the Swede, Gustav Dalen, both pioneered its use as an illuminant for lighthouses and devised a mechanism that allowed the automated illumination of the light.  The original lens, horse winch and the trolley used to haul supplies were removed and the owners, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, have placed them in the Western Australian Maritime Museum on permanent loan.  
 
This lighthouse and the lightkeepers’ quarters also have significance for their association with the development and operation of the coastal navigation system in WA in the early 20th century, and in particular the manned operation of remote lighthouses and the living and working conditions experienced by light keepers posted to remote stations.  The Lighthouse and quarters were listed on the Register of the National Estate in March 1978 (Place ID 19865), and on the Heritage Council of Western Australia’s Register of Heritage Places in August 2001 (Registration number 3261).  A plaque commemorating the “first recorded landing of Europeans in Australia”, and including a translation of Dirk Hartog’s original inscription, was affixed to the fabric of the lighthouse by the Australian Government in 1938.
 
Condition and Integrity
Dirk Hartog Island has been run as a sheep station since the 1860s. The series of reserves in the Cape Inscription area are not included in the pastoral lease.
 
The lighthouse keepers’ quarters and the place of the inscription posts lie within the reserves noted above.
 
The immediate area of the rock cleft in which the navigator’s posts were placed remains virtually unchanged since Hartog’s visit in 1616, and there has been very little physical change to the Saint-Allouarne landing site or to Dampier’s landing site at Turtle Bay.  It is possible to witness exactly where the famous navigators, Hartog, Vlamingh, Hamelin, Freycinet, and King brought their boats ashore, climbed the cliff, and erected their posts.  The species of plants that Dampier collected are still flourishing at Dampier Landing, and it is remarkable that this site, which is so important to the history of botany in Australia, has remained virtually unchanged since 1699.
 
The area surrounding the lighthouse is in very good condition.  The lighthouse itself is still operational and well maintained.  The walls of the quarters are in sound condition, with some minor structural cracking and wear.  The roof structure has collapsed with only the wooden ridge beam surviving.  Most of the original wooden flooring structure has disintegrated or been removed  The surrounding natural vegetation remains largely undisturbed, with little weed invasion.
 
Location
About 1110ha, 100km south west of Carnarvon, being that part of Dirk Hartog Island north of a line between AMG points 696200mE 7178500mN and 702200mE 7175800mN, and extending to the Low Water Mark.
 
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Report Produced  Sun Aug 31 01:56:14 2014