Page 72 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
P. 72

 which was not available until well into the eighteenth century. Until then the navigating officer h a d to make d o with all sorts o f data o f compass variations observed at varying longitudes, compiled into the so-called isogonics.2
In search of a VOC route in the wake of the Portuguese
In most of these matters the Portuguese had acquired plenty of experience during the sixteenth century. But their knowledge could not remain hidden from other nations. The directors of the voorcompagnie├źn had been gathering information from Lisbon before they started on the eerste schipvaart.3 In addition they had acquired first hand information from men who had been to Asia in Portuguese service. By far the most important of these was Jan Huygen van Linschoten (1562/3-1611). After thirteen years abroad, five of which in Goa, he returned to Enkhuizen in 1592. In three books, published in 1595/6, he recorded his experiences, and his knowledge of the Portuguese possessions in Asia in particular. The most important of the three books from a navigational point of view, the so-called Reysgheschrift, had been hastily prepared for publication in March 1595 for the benefit of De Houtman's fleet (0001-0004), whereas publication of the remaining manuscripts was delayed by the publisher until the following year!
This Reysgheschrift by Van Linschoten is a kind of seaman's manual with sailing instruc- tions and descriptions of harbours, compiled from Portuguese and Spanish seafaring ma- nuals. In it he describes the seaway to Asia, indicates the conditions which were to be taken into account, and the existing trade routes in Asia. He also points out Java as an attractive area in which the Portuguese had not yet staked a claim.4
The sea route there and back was discovered and soon many more voyages followed. There was no established route as yet. The competing voorcompagnie├źn tried a number of routes, including the one round South America. After the founding of the VOC some of the fleets acquired a military character, since they attacked Portuguese settlements in East Africa and India (for instance 0107-0114 and 0118-0130). The commanders of the convoys in which the snipe usually travelled were given very broad instructions as to routes, and they were at liberty to act according to circumstances.5 As a result there was considerable variation in the duration of the voyages, the fleets being on their way from seven to sixteen months.
It soon became apparent that the Company could not continue to follow the Portuguese trail everywhere. In Mozambique the Portuguese military forces were too strong, and this obviated the necessity of following the East African coastline after rounding the Cape of Good Hope. Near Madagascar unfavourable currents and winds prevailed, often resulting in long delays. Hurricanes were frequent. From 1608 Bantam, the western part of Java, became the ultimate destination, but because of the length of the voyage and the need for fresh supplies, more often than not it proved impossible to avoid calling at the east coast of Madagascar - for instance at the bays of Antongil or S. Lucia - or Mauritius. These islands were not in Portuguese hands. But even the most direct route from the
2 Cf. Crone, 'Het vinden van de weg' and more generally Taylor, The havenfinding art. For the most recent ideas about the art of navigation see chapter 6, note 37.
3 Warnsinck, 'D e wetenschappelijke voorbereiding', 60-69.
4 For Van Linschoten see Terpstra, Itinerario I, Inleiding. Warnsinck published the 'Reysgheschrift
van de navigatien der Portugaloysers' as vol. 43 (1939) of the Werken Linschoten Vereeniging. On the use made of this book see Rouffaer, De eerste schipvaart I, p. XXXII and II, 256-257 and 283-284.
5 For example Van Opstall, De reis van Pieter Willemsz Verhoeff, 182-183.
























































































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