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Dirk Hartog 400th Anniversary Commemorations

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The Dutch skipper Dirk Hartog made one of the first recorded landfalls by a European on the Western Australian coastline, with his vessel the Eendracht landing at Dirk Hartog Island, off the coast of Shark Bay, on 25 October 1616. The landing at Cape Inscription in 1616 is significant as Hartog left behind a flattened, engraved, pewter dish.  The dish was nailed to a wooden post and inscribed with a record of his visit. This represents the oldest such evidence of European contact with Australia.

In 1697, Willem de Vlamingh, upon landing at Dirk Hartog Island, replaced Hartog’s dish with a similar flattened pewter dish, inscribed with Hartog’s text and details of de Vlamingh’s own voyage. De Vlamingh took Hartog’s dish to Batavia (Jakarta) and it now resides in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Tuesday 25 October 2016 marked the 400th anniversary of Dirk Hartog’s landing at Cape Inscription.

Picture (left):  Dirk Hartog's pewter dish.  Copyright WA Museum


400th Anniversary Commemorations 

Approximately $26million was allocated to the recognition of the 400th anniversary of Dirk Hartog’s landing at Cape Inscription, with funds coming from both the State Government and private sectors.

The commemorations were launched in Perth in November 2013 with a visit by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and an accompanying interpretive exhibition ‘Accidental Encounters’, prepared by the Western Australian Museum (WA Museum). The Orchestra’s performances and interpretive exhibition represented the first Western Australian Government-funded events to commemorate Dirk Hartog’s landing off the coast of Shark Bay.

A range of State Government-funded initiatives to mark the significant occasion were coordinated by the Department of the Premier and Cabinet (DPC) in consultation with the Dutch Government, the Shire of Shark Bay, the Department of Parks and Wildlife (P&W), the WA Museum and the Gascoyne Development Commission (GDC).  Initiatives included new infrastructure and interpretive material on both Dirk Hartog Island and in Denham, a commemorative function at Cape Inscription, and a festival held in Shark Bay from October 21 to 25, 2016.  A journey from Bunbury to Denham by the replica Dutch ship of the era, the Duyfken, was one of the highlights of the commemorations.  A new website  has also put more than 400 years of history at everyone’s fingertips.

State Government funding of $820,000 from the Royalties for Regions Regional Community Services Fund was committed to deliver the initiatives and assist in meeting the following State Government objectives for the commemoration:

  • Develop national recognition of the significance of Cape Inscription as the landing place of Dirk Hartog in 1616 and its relevance within Shark Bay.

  • Encourage and support local community initiatives to celebrate the anniversary.

  • Ensure there are opportunities for a wider Western Australian audience to interact and learn more about the Dirk Hartog story and the State’s early maritime history.

  • Use the occasion to promote learning amongst Western Australian school children about the State’s European history and the role the Shark Bay region plays in that history.

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State Government Initiatives 

Dirk Hartog Island

  • Construction of replica copies of Dirk Hartog’s pewter dish, and the dish that replaced it in 1697 by Willem de Vlamingh, and installation of both at Cape Inscription.

  • Construction and installation of interpretive panels at the Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage at Cape Inscription.

  • Hosting of a commemorative function at Cape Inscription on 25 October 2016. 


  • Design, construction and installation on the Denham foreshore of a contemporary interpretive art piece to represent Dirk Hartog’s landing, known as "Union".

  • Installation of Dirk Hartog and VOC (the Dutch East India Company) interpretative material on the Denham foreshore.

  • Upgrade of Dirk Hartog and VOC interpretive material within the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery Centre.

  • Facilitation of a commemorative festival in the Shire of Shark Bay, 'Dirk Hartog – Voyage of Discovery: Shark Bay 1616' held between 21 and 25 October 2016.

  • Journey by the replica Dutch ship of the era, the Duyfken, along the Western Australian coast to Denham.  See below for further information.

  • A ‘2016’ Photographic Exhibition at the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery Centre by photographic consortium, Ninety Degrees Five (ND5).

Additional funding was also secured through the Department of Regional Development with $2.2million allocated to the redevelopment and extension of the Denham jetty and $5.7million for the upgrade of the Denham foreshore.

State wide

  • Development of a Dirk Hartog/VOC website, now available at . The website will continue to evolve as additional information and new elements are added to enhance information about the stories and legacies of Hartog and VOC.

  • Dirk Hartog Exhibition ‘Accidental Encounters’ (prepared for the Royal Concertgebouw performance in Perth in 2013) to travel to Kalbarri, Carnarvon and Denham. See below for further information.

  • Development of teachers' resources to promote learning amongst Western Australian school children about the State's maritime history and the role the Shark Bay region plays in the history.

Other groups and organisations, including the Dutch Government, also coordinated further events and activities to recognise the 400-year anniversary. Please see 'What's in Scope' below.

Cape Inscription Commemorative Function: 25 October 2016

The State Government commemorated Dirk Hartog's landing at Cape Inscription on the morning of 25 October 2016, officially launching the replica pewter dishes near the cleft and new interpretive panels at the Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage. The Minister for Culture and the Arts hosted the commemorative function and was joined by approximately 380 members of the public.

'Dirk Hartog - Voyage of Discovery: Shark Bay 1616' Festival

Between 21-25 October 2016 Shark Bay hosted a festival of music, art, culture and history which included:

Friday 21 October

Event launch and Opening Ceremony

Saturday 22 October

Community Concert

Sunday 23 October

1616 Golden Age Ball

Tuesday 25 October

Cape Inscription Commemorative Function on Dirk Hartog Island.

Official launch of the "Union" art piece and official foreshore opening, hosted by the Premier and Minister for Regional Development.

Festival images can be viewed here.

Duyfken commemorative voyage 

The Hartog Commemorative Voyage program commenced in Fremantle on Thursday 18 August 2016. The Duyfken headed to sea to her first port of call, Bunbury. From there, she ventured on to Mandurah, Hillarys, Jurien Bay, Dongara, Geraldton and Denham, to deliver a comprehensive community engagement and education program. On Monday 24 October 2016 the Duyfken sailed from Denham to Dirk Hartog Island to sit offshore during the commemorative function.

Each voyage carried a crew of 16 made up of six professionals and 10 volunteers, offering tall ship enthusiasts the opportunity to experience a journey of a lifetime.

To prepare for the voyage the Duyfken underwent major upgrades, made possible by a grant from Lotterywest. Upgrades included new sails, a full replacement of the existing deck, recaulking of all the hull planks, installation of new fuel tanks, and replacement of the old electrical system.

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Accidental Encounters 

The Accidental Encounters exhibition encompasses the stories of the first recorded European (Dutch) landings in Shark Bay, Western Australia, and the four 17th and 18th century Dutch VOC shipwrecks off the Western Australian coast.

The exhibition includes replica copies of the pewter dishes left at Cape Inscription, material (cargo, armaments, personal items) from the four Dutch VOC wrecks and a model of the Batavia, the earliest of the VOC vessels to come to grief off the Western Australian coast in 1629.

The exhibition toured through Kalbarri, Carnarvon and Denham throughout 2016.

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Teachers' Resources 

The History Teachers' Association of WA and the Science Teachers' Association of WA produced teaching resources relating to the Dirk Hartog anniversary year.

The History Teachers' resource links to Year 3 and Year 4 history curricula, and can be freely downloaded at

The Science Teachers' Association of WA developed two resources; an ecology resource focusing on the Return to 1616 ecological restoration project taking place on Dirk Hartog Island, and a chemisty resource. The teaching resources can be freely downloaded at

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‘Return to 1616’ 

As part of the commemorations, Parks & Wildlife (P&W) is managing a ground breaking project to restore the vegetation and habitats of Dirk Hartog Island. Known as ‘Return to 1616’, the project is focusing on the removal of introduced plants and animals, reintroduction of locally extinct wildlife, and implementation of practical biosecurity measures to protect the island.

With the removal of sheep and most of the goats, as well as a cat eradication program, habitats are returning to how they would have appeared to Dirk Hartog in 1616.

The Dirk Hartog Island Ecological Restoration Project is mostly funded through the Gorgon Barrow Island Net Conservation Benefits program, with additional funding from P&W. P&W received $11.5 million over seven years to June 2018 to deliver the first stage of the Return to 1616 project.

Further information on the Return to 1616 project, and other ecological restoration projects being undertaken across the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, is available here.

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Travellers and Traders of the Indian Ocean World

The inscribed pewter dish left at Shark Bay by Hartog in 1616 returned to Western Australia, as part of the major international exhibition Travellers and Traders in the Indian Ocean World at the WA Maritime Museum.

The dish is usually kept on permanent display in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum and given its fragility, this probably represents the last time it will travel to Australia. It was on display alongside the de Vlamingh dish, which is part of the WA State Collection and is permanently on display at the museum's Shipwreck Galleries in Fremantle.  The two dishes have only been displayed together once before, during Australia's 1988 bi-centenary celebration.

The exhibition was a world-first, bringing together more than 100 paintings, sculptures and historical artefacts, many which had never been seen in Australia. It was created by the Western Australian Museum, in partnership with the British Museum, with support from the Rijksmuseum and other major lenders.

Travellers and Traders was on display at the WA Maritime Museum from 31 October 2016 until April 2017.


Shire Festival and 1616 Golden Age Ball

WA Museum website

Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

History Teachers' Association of WA resource

Science Teachers' Association of WA resources

Duyfken Foundation

Return to 1616 ecological restoration project


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