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Thomas Hocken

On the Journal of Abel Tasman

Tasman was born in 1602 or 1603 at Hoorn, in the north of Holland, a town on the borders of the Zuyder Zee, where so many bold sailors were bred, and where, it has been stated, descendants of his family still remain. But, indeed, we know little of Tasman’s personal history beyond that contained in his journal. In this he has truly bequeathed us his monument, though underneath it lies little more than a shadow. An old engraving of him is to be seen in the Christchurch Museum, and it would seem that some personal description is given by M. Dozy in “Bijdragen de Taal- Land- en Volken- kunde van Nederlandsch-Indie” (“Contributions to the Language, Country, and People of Dutch-India”), 5th series, vol. II, p. 308.

In a paper read before this institute last year I gave some account of Tasman’s Journal and showed that it had never been edited and published in its entirety until so recently as the year 1860, when Herr Jacob Swart, of Amsterdam, gave it to the world in the original old Dutch, which not only differs greatly from modern Dutch but is apparently a dialect.

In his edition, Jacob Swart prefixes to the journal publications of all the documentsrelatingtoit.Theseareofconsiderablevalueandinterest, and were discovered in the old foliants and letter books of the company, presumably at the same time that the long lost journal was found and forwarded from Batavia to Amsterdam.

Tasman begins and ends his day at midnight, the same as our civil day. He reckons his course and the distance run from noon to noon, at which time he took the latitude and longitude. His watches were : The day, or morning, watch, from 4 to 8; the forenoon, or noon, watch, from 8 to 12 noon; the afternoon watch, from 12 to 4; the flat-foot or, as, we call them, the dog- watche B,from 4 to 6 and 6 to 8;the first watch,8 to 12 midnight; and the second, or houad watch, 12 midnight to 4 in the morning. It is curious that of all Teutonic-speaking sailors the English alone use the term dogwatch as signifying the hours between 4 and 8 p.m. Other Teutons use the equivalent hund-hunde, or hondewacht, as signifying the second watch — that between midnight and 4 a.m.; and to express their dogwatches, between 4 and 8 p.m., they use platt-fuss, platt-foden,or plat-voet,meaning flat-foot. The neo-Latin, or Italic-speaking, sailors had no such words as dog watch, or flat-foot, but spoke of the second watch, or of the watch from 4 to 6 or 6 to 8 in the evening. I do not know the underlying meaning of these words, but can fancy they contain the idea of the most restful part of a ship’s day when a dog would be sufficient guard, and when any work on deck could be done without running : all heel and toe, as the pedestrians have it — a flat foot.

His journal is written in a plain, quaint, intelligible style, and abundantly shows that the writer was a bold and accomplished seaman as well as a fortunate discoverer.

Thomas Hocken's library features strongly in this anthology. Several researchers have completed their work by drawing on the archives at the Hocken LIbrary Dunedin. Peter Simpson speaks of the inspiration Colin McCahon drew from the library.