My Father's Island is about Abel Tasman and his crews travelling in wooden ships doing marvellous things told through his daughter,Claesgen....
|Title||:||My Father's Islands Abel Tasman's Heroic Voyages|
|Number of Pages||:||190 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
My Father's Islands Abel Tasman's Heroic Voyages Reviews
Reviewed by John Gough – firstname.lastname@example.orgWhen I was in Primary school in the 1950s, The Australasian School Atlas (J. Barthlomew & K.R. Cramp, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 4th edition, 1958), along with the Victorian Readers, the Victorian Arithmetic books, and the School Papers, was one of the few prescribed textbooks most students owned. It included maps of voyages of discovery, around the Pacific, and explorations around and across Australia. This was, naturally, an important part of the curriculum, blending History, Geography and Mathematics. (I wonder if modern classrooms have such good access to important historical maps?) Tracing the voyages around uncharted waters, seeing increasing lengths of coastline and inland territories being progressively mapped, gave a physical sense of adventure, culminating in the tragic deaths of James Cook, Bougainville, Leichardt, Burke and Wills, and other explorers. As the new National History curriculum develops, the explorations that led to modern Australia will surely be a major component of future schooling! Mattingley’s children’s book about the great Dutch maritime explorer Abel Tasman, will be an essential component of this curriculum.But why discuss a history-based book in a Primary mathematics education journal? It is possible to read such a book at the trivial level of – once upon a time some people had adventures. Trivial indeed. (Even good fantasy adventures deserve to be read with more deliberate thought than this.) Who? Where? When? Why? How? Think about these fundamental questions and you begin to need mathematical thinking: logical reasoning, classification and sorting, time, distance, maps, compass directions, latitude and longitude, problem solving, money, mass and volume, … Engage with these aspects of a significant historical narrative and mathematics is essential for good understanding.Christobel Mattingley, one of Australia’s great writers for children and adults, was inspired to write My Father’s Islands when she saw the portrait (that features in the book) of Abel Janszoon Tasman and his second wife Jannetje and young daughter Claesgen, held by the National Library of Australia. In a note at the end of the book, Mattingley says she “wondered how the little girl felt about her father’s long absences … how much she must have missed him when he was away … how much she must have loved to hear the stories he told her about where he had been and what he had seen and done … with an explorer as a father, she must have had a lively curiosity and asked a lot of questions” (p 182).Mattingley’s book vividly conjures up this lively, curious, questioning little girl: “Hello! Call me Claesgen*. Do you like islands? Do you wish you could discover a treasure island? … My father is very good at discovering islands …” (p. 7: the asterisked footnote explains this girl’s name is pronounced “Klasejen”: she is named after her mother, who died while Claesgen was an infant: the Dutch name means Little Claesje). Cleverly, engagingly, Mattingley lets the voice of Claesgen set the scene, and era. (Before this first-person narrative begins, two preparatory pages by the author directly alert modern readers to the fact that these historical events and people lived in a world that had little knowledge of the Pacific region, used slow wooden sailing ships, and relied on primitive maps and navigational aids. No GPS satnav. No mobile phones or internet. No petrol or diesel or electric motors. No supermarkets. No refrigerators. ….) Then Claesgen explains her father’s beginnings, in the farming lands of Holland, and then as a sailor on the ships of the Dutch East India Company. This was a major trading organisation with “precious cargoes of spices, silks, porcelain, ivory and other exotic objects from China, Japan, India and the Spice Islands [mainly the Indonesian and Philippine archipelagos]” (p. 21). Although this is the early 1600s, we can recognise the Dutch East India Company as a major global company, a transnational economic power, at a time when many modern nations, such as Germany, Italy, Indonesia and others, did not exist, and finance, investment and banking had only existed for a couple of hundred years. Even Holland, itself, was a semi-independent collection of Dutch-speaking provinces, partly governed by Spaniards as part of the Spanish Hapsburg Empire, and conflict between catholic and Protestant forces.After Tasman demonstrates his leadership and maritime ability by bringing a major cargo of spices (notably, cloves, nutmegs, and cinnamon: did you know that cinnamon is not a nut or seed but the inner bark of a particular tree?) and other precious goods back to Holland, he is sent back to Batavia (now known as Jakarta), with his family, including Claesgen – we can only guess at the extreme contrast between north-west Europe and tropical Java, although Claesgen tries to describe this. Even travelling, by small, slow three-master galleon-like boats is a huge challenge, and adventure, for a little Dutch girl! Half a world away! Seven months, across the Equator, through a Southern hemisphere winter, and back over the Equator! Tropical heat, jungle, monkeys, palm trees, coconuts and exotic fruits, local inhabitants, open drains and stinks! (There were also open drains and stinks in Holland, of course! Modern sewerage systems had not been re-invented, then.) Although unspecified in the book, this family voyage to Batavia was around 1638. (Classroom Activity: Make a time-line of events and the era.)As soon as the family arrives in Batavia, Tasman is sent on special exploratory voyages. The Governor of Batavia, Anthony Van Diemen, and the Councillors of the Dutch East India Company, apart from maintaining profitable trade between the East Indies and Europe, hope that maritime exploration will discover new lands that will be as rich, in gold, silver, and new spices and other treasures as the earlier post-Columbus Spanish and Portuguese discoveries (actually looting, enslaving, and pillage!) had been in Central and South America. However they are also aware that mainland China, Korea, and off-shore Japan, established Asian empires bordering the north-west Pacific Ocean, already contacted by earlier Portuguese sailors, and connected to Europe by arduous land-based trade routes, may have prior claims on Pacific lands that, hitherto, are unknown to Europeans. So Tasman is sent to explore for Chinese or Japanese territories, or for unclaimed territories.What a challenge! Maps of these regions are either non-existent, or hopelessly vague. The boats are in bad condition and need repair, and they are cheaply equipped and short of supplies for long ocean voyages far from a home port. Moreover, these unfamiliar seas have strong currents, unreliable winds, many unpredictable navigational hazards such as reefs and coral, and they lie in the typhoon belt! This is also the era when no one understands the role of Vitamin C to prevent scurvy, and Vitamin B to prevent beriberi (p. 31). Long sea voyages without fresh food, and poorly stored food goods, often result in malnutrition and death at sea. (Captain Cook’s insistence that his crew drink a daily dose of lime juice – one of the preventatives of scurvy – came more than a hundred years later!)Despite the incompetent and miserly way the Company equipped its boats, Tasman did everything he was asked to do, except discover rich new territories. Reports from other Dutch captains of “rich deposits of gold and silver to be discovered on islands to the east of Japan” (p. 39) were not based on fact. But everywhere Tasman sailed he made good new maps! He was the ideal man for the next major venture by the Company, the major narrative in Mattingley’s book.Earlier Dutch sailors, such as Dirk Hartog, had accidentally “bumped” into parts of the West Australian coast, while using the strong west winds of the Roaring Forties to sail from the Cape of Good Hope, at the bottom of Africa, eastwards and then northwards towards Batavia, without the extent of the coast-line or the continental land-mass being realised. (Not only did maps of this region not exist, it was extremely difficult to measure longitude until accurate and reliable portable clocks – chronometers – were invented, in time for Captain Cook’s great voyages!) Another Dutch captain, Willem Janszoon, sent exploring from Java, had reached parts of New Guinea, and the Gulf of Carpentaria on the west of the York Peninsula. Tasman was assigned the task of exploring this otherwise unknown region – resulting in his greatest voyage!How does Mattingley tell the story? She lets Claesgen say, for example, “In 1642 my father was entrusted with a very important mission …’. Claesgen can then report what she would have been told by her father before he leaves, including facsimile bills of lading (listing the supplies and trade goods stored in the boats: pp. 52-53), and the daily rations allowed to each sailor (pp. 178, 85, 56). Then she either quotes directly, or paraphrases from her father’s journal, or relates – after her father has returned – the events of the voyage as he tells them directly to her, or as she overhears the more violent or upsetting parts that he tells his wife. The sense of Claesgen’s voice and words brings the history to life!What a triumph! From 14 August 1642 to 15 June 1643 (how long?), sailing unfamiliar oceans, mapping uncharted coasts, losing only 10 men to illness, Tasman’s expedition started at Java, re-supplied at Mauritius, struck land at Tasmania (as we now know it, named in honour of its European discoverer, but initially named respectfully Van Diemens Land: interestingly, place names often have special explanations!), then coming to the South Island of New Zealand (violently confronted by Maori warriors in large wooden canoes!) and the North Island, then finding a friendlier reception at some of the Tonga Islands (also known as the Friendly Islands, for obvious historical reasons), then finding further Polynesian friendliness at the Fiji Islands, and creeping with difficulty against contrary winds and currents back towards Java along the reef-strewn north coast of New Guinea (the world’s second-largest non-continental island: what are the first, and third largest islands?)None of this was easy! Some crewmen were savagely attacked and killed! Water and other supplies often ran short. Winds and currents were often contrary. Severe storms battered the small fleet, threatening to separate them. Even the act of sailing required strenuous man-power, setting sails and reefing them in, tacking laboriously to move the boats in a zig-zag stepwise progression against head-winds. A vigilant lookout was essential at all times to warn the crew about unexpected hazards! (Mattingley very sensibly provides brief footnotes that explain essential technical and historical details, and suggesting further investigations.)Claesgen’s story ends with her remembering her mother’s portrait dress, and the little cloth bag in which she keeps the small personal treasures her father has brought her from his voyages – shells, feathers, pebbles, and a nutmeg. An Epilogue and further notes round out the biography.A later voyage took Tasman into the territory initially explored by Willem Janszoon. Tasman was able to map thousands of nautical miles (what is a nautical mile? why do we use non-metric nautical miles at sea and in aviation, and use metric kilometres on land?) along the northern Australian coast and nearby islands from the Gulf of Carpentaria (what is the origin of the name?) to Port Hedland. He made no valuable territorial claims for the Company, and brought back no promise of riches or profitable trade. But this is some of the most inhospitable country on Earth. About fifty years later William Dampier, the English buccaneer and explorer (and a remarkable and influential man in his own right!) landed on the west coast of Australia and found it desolate, with few inhabitants.Mattingley’s gripping story provides the entry to a fascinating and important slice of Australian history, with all the mathematical thinking and demands this entails. There are many illustrations based on original historical drawings, many from Tasman’s own journal. Useful, simple maps show the regions, and voyages. Very highly recommended!
Once past the intrusive and irritating opening where Claesgen, Tasman's daughter, fires volley after volley of questions addressing the reader, this is a tantalising record of Abel Tasman's voyages. Despite his exemplary seamanship and compassionate leadership, Tasman was a disappointment to his employers who said he was 'not adventurous enough'. He braved hazards on both ocean and land, survived several hostile encounters and is said to have charted one-fifth of the world. But the Dutch East India Company wanted islands of silver and gold, territories of trade, faster routes to profitable, exploitable lands. Tasman provided none of this. It was extremely interesting to note that the captain's councils which so irritated me in Star Trek: The Next Generation were probably modelled on a procedure Tasman undertook on numerous occasions. He called the ship's officers together (sometimes even those of another ship) to discuss strategy or an alteration in plans. Here they seemed reasonable and democratic; in Star Trek: The Next Generation they seemed quite silly when a potentially hostile enemy attack was imminent.The book is replete with maps and questions, activities and heaps of footnoted explanations. It is obviously targetting the schools market. I marked it down because it was such a hybrid. All the added extras spoiled the story, rather than enhanced them for me. Others may feel differently but I would have preferred Claesgen simply to tell the tale. She never stops addressing the reader, although thankfully, never to the same painful degree as the opening. It would be far less intrusive story-wise and thus more enjoyable to have all the extras at the end or even available on a website as Teacher's Notes.
Really enjoyed the book. I knew very little about Abel Tasman. Life on board the ship was well written and revealing. I now need to read more about the Dutch East India Company to give me a bigger picture.Love the idea that the author got her inspiration for the story when she saw the portrait of Abel Tasman and his wife and child.
Well written story told by the daughter of Abel Tasman, all about his voyages and the living conditions. Real historical novel.
Found the author's voice to be intrusive and the book felt didactic. It's a pity as I've enjoyed many of her other books.