Book Review-‘The Savage Shore: Extraordinary stories of survival and tragedy from the early voyages of discovery’ by G. Seal

By Katherine Parker, published December 2020


In 1616 the Eendracht, commanded by Dirk Hartog, landed on an island in Western Australia, the first known Dutch ship to contact the western side of the continent. Hartog ordered a pewter plate to be mounted on a post, chronicling his presence. Eighty years later another Dutchman, Willem de Vlamingh, recovered Hartog’s plate and replaced it with one of his own. In 1801 Jacques Felix Emmanuel Hamelin, commanding the Naturaliste as part of the Baudin expedition, located the plate and added his own. Hamelin’s officer, Louis de Freycinet, returned in 1818 as the commander of his own ship and took the de Vlamingh plate to France, where it disappeared until 1940. The French government presented the plate as a gift to Australia in 1947 and it is now in the Western Australian Museum. Hartog’s plate is at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The movement of these two pewter plates over time and space encapsulate the themes that Graham Seal explores in The Savage Shore: pre-1788 European interaction with Australia and the legacies — material, mythical, diplomatic and genetic — of those first encounters…

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Filed under: Pacific
Subjects include: Science & Exploration

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