at Denham looking across to Dirk Hartog
Historic cape on Dirk Hartog Island
It was the Dutch sailor Henderik Brouwer who, in
1610, discovered that the best route from the
Cape of Good Hope to Batavia was via the Roaring
Forties. The idea was head east for a few
thousand kilometres then turn left. Brouwer
achieved the crossing of the Indian Ocean and
turned left before reaching Western Australia.
Six years later Dirk Hartog sailed too far and
landed at Cape Inscription on 26 October 1616.
It was here that Hartog left his famous pewter
plate inscribed (in Dutch, this is obviously a
translation): '1616. On 25th October there
arrived here the ship Eendraght of Amsterdam.
Supercargo Gilles Miebais of Liege; skipper
Dirck Hatichs of Amsterdam. On 27th do. she set
sail again for Bantam. Subcargo Jan Stins; upper
steersman Pieter Doores of Bil. In the year
1616.' It hardly makes gripping reading but it
is firm evidence of the first Europeans landing
on mainland Australia.
In 1697 the Dutch sailor Willem de Vlamingh
reached the island and, finding Hartog's pewter
plate still in its original position (although
somewhat the worse for weathering) he removed it
and replaced it with another plate. The original
was returned to Holland where it still is kept
in the Rijksmuseum.
De Vlamingh's replacement plate had an even
less interesting inscription on it. After
getting the date wrong he listed all the
important sailors on the voyage and concluded
with 'Our fleet set sail from here to continue
exploring the Southern Land, on the way to
In 1818 the French explorer Louis de
Freycinet, while exploring the coast, came
across de Vlamingh's plate and removed it to
France. The plate was eventually returned to
Australia in 1947 and is currently housed in the
Maritime Museum in Fremantle.
Around this time Phillip Parker King
circumnavigated the island on his historic
survey of the Australian coastline. Both King
and John Septimus Roe left their marks on the
island. King spelt out his name in nails on a
post and Roe carved his name in the timber.
The island has for a long time been privately
owned by Sir Thomas Wardle, an ex-Lord Mayor and
one-time grocery millionaire from Perth, but in
1989 the West Australian government decided to
make all of the island (except for 100 acres)
part of the hugely expanded Shark Bay National
Park which includes all the important sites in
It is widely recognised that the island,
apart from its obvious historical importance, is
important environmentally. It boasts 250 species
of plant life and is home to the rare black and
Things to see:
Attractions on the Island
At Cape Inscription there is an old post where
the original plate was placed as well as a
lighthouse and a lighthouse keeper's cottage.
The western coastline of the island is dramatic
and dangerous in stormy weather but during mild
conditions it is famous for its game fishing
with marlin, samson fish and sailfish being
There is no regular access to the island at
the moment. The problem is that the journey from
Denham to Turtle Bay requires a large boat while
access to the shore requires a small boat and,
even then, there is a 3 km walk from Turtle Bay
to the Dirk Hartog site. It is possible to
charter a boat or to fly over the area. For more
information contact the Shark Bay Tourist
Bureau, Knight Terrace, Denham (08) 9948 1253.
More direct contact can be made by ringing the
island on (08) 9948 1211 or contacting Shark Bay
Charter Services (they organise fishing in the
local area) on (08) 9948 1113.
Since writing that last piece of information
we have received an email from Wardle family on
the island. It reads:
Hi! My name is Kieran Wardle. I am Sir Thomas
Wardle's grandson. Just a short note to inform
you what is happening on Dirk Hartog Island.
(Your "Cape Inscription" article may need to be
changed, so all readers are informed with the
Dirk Hartog Island Station is now open to
tourists. We offer two types of accommodation -
8 Homestead Rooms and Camping facilities. You
can also bring your own 4WD to Dirk Hartog
Island. The Island Homestead has two Toyota
4WD's for Historic Tours to Cape Inscription &
Turtle Bay also stopping off for land based
fishing on the way home. (Catch dinner). The
Island Homestead also has a 26ft Shark Cat for
game fishing, scuba diving, snorkelling &
transfers from Denham to the Island.
Rex Hunt has filmed four 15 min TV shows & a
one 1hour special on Dirk Hartog Island. He has
rated it in his top ten fishing holidays.
Dirk Hartog Island Station is still run as a
sheep station, running 6000 sheep. However our
family have been dealing with the government for
9 years to try and come to an agreement on what
should happen to Dirk Hartog Island. We have
offered to run the island as a private national