Willem de Vlamingh statue
Public Art: Willem de Vlamingh statue
Sculptor: © Joan Walsh-Smith and Charles Smith
Description : A bronze statue of the Dutch explorer
Willem de Vlamingh who explored and named the Swan River in 1696. Vlamingh is dressed in period outfit with
telescope in right hand.
Date Unveiled : The Willem de Vlamingh statue was
unveiled by his Royal Highness The Prince of Orange on 12th January 1997.
Location : Burswood Park by the Swan River foreshore,
Burswood, Western Australia.
Willem de Vlamingh
This sculpture of Dutch navigator Willem de Vlamingh was unveiled by his Royal Highness The Prince
of Orange on 12th January 1997 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of de Vlamingh's exploration
and naming of the Swan River in January 1697.
The sculpture pays tribute to the significant part played by the early Dutch
navigators in the discovery of Western Australia. The Dutch voyages to our coastline, which started
with the visit of Dirk Hartog in 1616 and culminated with
de Vlamingh's exploration of 1696/1697 preceded the landing of Captain Cook on the east coast by
more than a century.
Who Was Willem de Vlamingh?: Willem Hesselsz de Vlamingh (28
November 1640 - 1698 ?) was a Dutch sea-captain of the Dutch East India Company who explored the central west coast
of Australia (then "New Holland") in the late 17th century.
Born in Oost-Vlieland, Netherlands, he joined VOC (Dutch East India Company) in 1688 and made his first voyage
to Batavia (Jakarta, Indonesia) in the same year.
In May, 1696, de Vlamingh and his crew were sent from Holland on three ships to look for survivors of the ship
Ridderschap van Holland believed wrecked off the west coast of Australia that had been carrying 325 passengers. The
expedition also included charting the west coast of New Holland to find safe harbours for ships sailing the Indian
Ocean route from the African Cape of Good Hope to the Dutch East Indies.
On the 29th of December they sighted land and anchored off an island they would name "rats' nest" (now Rottnest)
because they thought that the native marsupials, Quokkas, that inhabited the island were very large rats. Two days
later the crew ventured to the mainland to explore the area (Perth). They spied numerous black swans on the river
and named it Swaanerivier (now Swan River). Despite evidence of human life the crew never came in contact with the
local Aboriginals. By the 13th of January they had seen enough and set sail once again.
On the 30th of January, de Vlamingh anchored near an island (Dirk Hartog Island) where his fellow countryman and
skipper of the Dutch East India Co , Dirk Hartog , had landed during a voyage to the East Indies in 1616. When
Hartog and his crew explored the island they had left left a flattened, pewter plate nailed to a wooden post with
an inscription recording their visit . De Vlamingh's party found the plate on the 3rd of February, 1697 and it was
promptly replaced with another one which included Hartog's message plus one commemorating De Vlamingh's visit. De
Vlamingh kept Hartog's plate and later handed it over to Dutch authorities in Batavia.
On the 13th of February the ships pulled up anchor once again and continued along the coast for a little over a
week before heading back to Batavia. Despite no sightings of the wreck nor evidence of any survivors Vlamingh did
successfully chart parts of Australia's western coast during his journey.
Hartog's original pewter dish was later taken from Batavia and sent to VOC's headquarters in Holland and now
resides in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Vlamingh's dish was removed from Dirk Hartog Island in 1818 by Louis de
Freycinet who wanted it delivered to France for safe keeping. Despite Freycinet's ship being wrecked at the
Falkland Islands, en route to Paris, the plate survived and was handed over to the Académie Française. For over a
century it sat on the bottom shelf in a small room mixed up with old copper engraving plates until in 1940 it was
rediscovered. Seven years later it was returned to Western Australia as a goodwill gesture and is now on display at
the West Australian Maritime Museum in Fremantle.
As for the fate of Willem Hesselsz de Vlamingh, he later returned to Amsterdam where no further records of him
were ever found.
Other Willem de Vlamingh Memorials:
Vlamingh Memorial, Vlamingh
Expedition plaque, Vlamingh Landing plaque, Vlamingh's Landing Memorial,