12 October 2017

Farewell to the sea

A decade after that first expedition to the Southland, Tasman would say goodbye to his VOC carreer and live the life of a wealthy merchant in Batavia.

Back to Batavia

The death of Anthony van Diemen in 1645 marked the end of the era of Dutch expedition in the Far East. Initially Abel Tasman would continue to work as a captain for the VOC. In 1648 he was charged with a privateer mission: the war with Spain was drawing to its end and the new Governor-General Cornelis van der Lijn wanted to try one last attack on the Spanish enemy in the Philippines. Tasman had to capture the Silver Ship the Spanish sent once a year from the Americas to the Philippines. (Once peace would be signed, these kind of actions, that had been so profitable for the Dutch, would become illegal). Following the example of admiral-privateer Piet Hein who, 20 years earlier, had captured the Spanish Silver Fleet in a Cuban bay. 

 Piet Hein taking the Silver Fleet in 1628 - engraving Rijksmuseum

Piet Hein taking the Silver Fleet in 1628 - engraving Rijksmuseum

The eight well armed ships of Tasman did get the Spanish silver ship in sight, but the Spanish preferred to throw their cargo overboard and set their ship on fire instead of letting it fall in the hands of their enemies. On that same journey something happened that would derail Tasman's successful career with the VOC. He went too far in disciplining two men, who he thought were trying to desert. Since he had strayed from standard procedure, threatening to hang the two men without a trial, on his return to Batavia he was heavily fined and temporarily suspended. Although Tasman was retroactively reinstated in his position and rank, he resigned from the VOC in 1652. 

Together with his wife, Jannetje Tjaers, and Claesje, his daughter from a previous marriage, Tasman lived on the Tijgersgracht. This was the most upscale of the canals in Batavia, where the prominent families lived. The family also owned an estate outside of the city. In his final years, he still transported cattle as an independent skipper around Batavia and Java. Tasman died in Batavia in 1659. As was the custom in these days for man of standing, he bequeathed a sum in his will to the poor of his hometown, Lutjegast.