Abel Janszoon Tasman (1603 – 10 October 1659) was a Dutch seafarer, explorer, and merchant, best known for his voyages of 1642 and 1644 in the service of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). He was the first known European explorer to reach the islands of Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) and New Zealand, and to sight the Fiji islands.
After some exploration of Van Diemen’s Land, Tasman had intended to proceed in a northerly direction but as the wind was unfavourable he steered east. Tasman endured a very rough journey from Tasmania to New Zealand. In one of his diary entries Tasman credits his compass, claiming it was the only thing that kept him alive. On 13 December they sighted land on the north-west coast of the South Island, New Zealand, becoming the first Europeans to do so. Tasman named it Staten Landt on the assumption that it was connected to an island (Staten Island, Argentina) at the south of the tip of South America. He sailed north, then east and 5 days later anchored about 7 km from the coast. He sent ship’s boats to gather water, but one of his boats was attacked by Māori in a double hulled waka (canoe) and four of his men were attacked and killed by mere (a type of short, broad-bladed weapon in the shape of an enlarged tear drop). He made it to land but was forced away – unable to claim the country for the Dutch. As Tasman sailed out of the bay he was again attacked, this time by 11 waka. The waka approached the Zeehaen which fired and hit one Maori who fell down. Canister shot hit the side of a waka. Archeological research has shown the Dutch had tried to land at a major agricultural area, which the Māori may have been trying to protect. Tasman named the bay Murderers’ Bay (now known as Golden Bay) and sailed north, but mistook Cook Strait for a bight (naming it Zeehaen’s Bight). Two names he gave to New Zealand landmarks still endure, Cape Maria van Diemen and Three Kings Islands, but Kaap Pieter Boreels was renamed by Cook 125 years later to Cape Egmont.