Were There Dutch Castaways in Central Australia?

Was there a colony of up to 300 Dutch people living in Central Australia from about 1710 until they died out before 1860? If that were true, a mass of Australian history would have to be re-written. To even suggest it invites the same mockery anyone gets about UFOs or finding Lasseter’s lost gold reef. And yet there is strong documentary backing for this story of a Dutch settlement in central Australia long before Captain Cook and the landing at Botany Bay.

Finding and marshalling this evidence has been the life’s work of an Australian authority on survival in bush and desert – the “Bush Tucker Man” Les Hiddins AM, of Townsville. Everyone knows how Hiddins, 76, can find edible grub and drinkable water, rather than doing a perish. But few appreciate that Hiddins is also an amateur historian whose rigour, depth of archival inquiry and savvy about the terrain leave academic historians frothing over their skinny lattes back at University House. Hiddins’ track record is here. For academics’ bogus Australian history, try here and here.

For those who don’t know of Hiddins, he is an ex-Army major who did two Vietnam deployments, the first as a forward scout. His first authorship was the 1987 Australian Army Survival Manual. On TV nature shows internationally he was of comparable stature to Steve Irwin.

If his convictions about the Dutch colony are crazy, well his interrogations of the documentary evidence might convert you too somewhat to the crazy side. Moreover, you’ll be shoulder-to-shoulder with your ABC on this. In 1996 it ran the half-hour Series 3 Episode 5 of Bush Tucker Man covering what Hiddins then knew about the colony. The ABC saw fit to repeat it unchanged four months ago, without guidance such as: “Warning. Disinformation!” Last year’s program involved his early Research 101, with many mistaken guesses. He’s now corrected those and substituted outputs based on better archival documents and intense ground and helicopter-based explorations. His work is barely half-finished: there are still more questions than answers.

I’d better add here that Hiddins’ Dutch-colony story has nothing to do with fake Aboriginal Professor Bruce Pascoe of Melbourne University and his fake “Aboriginal agriculture” compilations. Whereas our historians dance along with Pied Piper Pascoe, they won’t give five minutes to Hiddins and his 30 years of painstaking research into a massive Australian mystery.

Hiddins’ key document is a 1300-word Leeds Mercury newspaper account of January 1834, which we reproduce in full at this link. Stop to read it now, to understand what I’m writing below.

With that preamble, I’ll set out the basic “Dutch colony” facts that Hiddins has winkled out.

1/ In 1708 three Dutch ships, Mercurius, Zuiderburg and the “great vessel” Concordia, set off from Batavia to the Netherlands. They hit a storm south of the Sunda Strait and Zuiderburg and Concordia were wrecked.

2/ Concordia was of 900 tonnes with 130 on board, including – as Hiddins established via Dutch archivists — an officer named Constantijn Van Baerle. Hiddins’ claim, based on the prevailing currents, is that 80 men and 10 women survivors, including van Baerle, wound up somewhere on the north/west coast of WA and with some access to ship’s stores.[1] His claimed sequel is that they trekked inland eastward some 2000km looking for liveable country.

3/ Hiddins (above) says that in April 1832 a British army explorers’ party pushed due south from Raffles Bay (210km north-east of Darwin), looking for the reputed inland sea and rivers and commercial prospects.

4/ In January 1834 the respectable Leeds Mercury newspaper published 1300 words of journal entries from the expedition leader, who was named in the piece as “Lt Nixon” – a fictitious name. He described how he came across a Dutch colony of 300 people housed 800km to the south of Raffles Bay. The people had descended six or so generations (stated as 170 years but properly about 125 years) from shipwreck survivors.

5/ The settlers told Nixon their leader was named “Van Baerle”. This beyond question pins these reported 1832 Dutch colonists to the 1708 Concordia wreck and its known passenger Van Baerle. It is such an uncommon Dutch name that barely a handful of Dutch people go by it today.

6/ Nixon reported the Dutch had settled by permanent waters, living off maize, yams and the plentiful fish, with a suggestion of Dutch-style water management and irrigation.[2] Hiddins attributes their population growth to interbreeding with the local Aborigines – described by the Arrenda as “Luridja” meaning “foreigners”.

7/ Nixon said he was with them eight days. They spoke only a crude version of the original Dutch language and practised crude Christian observance and weddings.

8/ In 1851 a veteran harbourmaster, Captain-Lieutenant Van Blommestein at Samarang, Java, in the Dutch East Indies, corroborated that he had heard the story first-hand from an English merchant vessel that passed through soon after the discovery of the Dutch colony. He recalled incorrectly that the ship visited in 1836, but he meant 1832 or soon after. He reported the news at the time to the local governor – a document for which Hiddins is searching but has yet to find.  The harbourmaster had nothing to gain and much to lose by telling lies about such an episode. Sadly, he didn’t name the ship or persons, but Hiddins, checking ship movement records, believes it was the vessel Monkey on a routine trading run between New Holland and the Indies. It had a Lascar crew run by a Captain Pace, who could well have been the ship captain of the Raffles Bay expedition, according to Hiddins.

9/ English/Dutch relations in the 1830s were tense, with various diplomatic stand-offs. Hiddins believes the Swan River officials reported to London in person and in writing in the wake of the alleged discovery of the Dutch settlers. But in virtually every case the specific records have gone missing or been erased.

10/ When the first missionaries – the first white men — got to the Arranda community around Hermannsburg in 1876, the missionaries reported that Aboriginal women had Dutch Old-Testament names such as Judith, Paula and Mirjam. Hiddins says those names could not have come from the only other remotely feasible source, which would have been those building the overland telegraph 130km to the east and with hostile tribes in between.

11/ There were at the time unusual numbers of fair-haired (below) and western-looking Aboriginals around Hermannsburg. Some cave and rock art was Western rather than Aboriginal, such as pairs of sentimentally drawn “hearts” (below at right) and semi-realistic portraits and profiles (above). A traditional Luridja owner told Hiddins that the local word for “gun” was “Muket” (Musket), notwithstanding that muskets were long obsolete when the first explorer John McDouall Stuart passed through Central Australia in 1858.


12/ Some time after 1832, and before 1872, when explorer Ernest Giles moved through, the alleged colony died out from causes unknown. At what Hiddins suspects to be “ground zero” of the Dutch settlement, he has photographed a shoulder-high relic of a stone-slab corner (reproduced atop this page) using mud mortar, rather than limestone mortar. He claims it is pre-British but possibly re-used in recent times. No other mystery stonework is visible there, but similar examples exist within 30 or so kilometres. He dubs it “ground zero” because it’s near two un-natural arcs of trees 80m apart and 1km long. He believes them to be vestiges of Dutch-made channels.

Resolution of the Dutch-colony story will require multiple DNA data of Aborigines – which is difficult to acquire — and intensive aerial-based ground-penetrating radar . That job would cost several million dollars.  

Hiddins’ investigations have shown that the primary document – the Leeds Mercury newspaper account two years after the 1832 incident — is steeped in camouflage and misdirection. Initially these caused his research to hit blind alleys. But now, through archival detective work, he’s able to conjecture at likely truths.

Hiddins’ UK, Australian and Dutch-based research has proved the narrator “Lt Nixon” from the expedition was fictional. The Leeds Mercury claim is also false that the expedition was sponsored by scientific authorities in Singapore. On the basis of textual clues and a detective’s mantra of means, opportunity and motive, he claims the April 1832 expedition was organised in secret by the Swan River colony’s first Governor, James Stirling. It was led by Ensign (later Lt) Robert Dale, a talented 22-year-old explorer of proven local track record. Hiddins makes the Dale identification based partly on identical phrases in both the Leeds account and Dale’s local journals.

The secrecy, Hiddins says, was because the expedition was trespassing in NSW territory run by the outgoing and irascible Governor Darling.

When Dale reported back to Stirling (right), Hiddins says, the governor promptly sailed uninvited on HMS Sulphur to London to report on the international ‘bombshell’. The orthodox history is that Stirling’s abrupt 1832 voyage home was to plead for extra food for his hard-scrabble Swan settlers. However, the Fremantle weekly Colonial News added (14/7/1838) about the departure:

There is a vast deal more in this arrangement we apprehend, than meets the public eye.

And Stirling showed no urgency to relieve the Perth food shortage. He ignored the chance to load the Sulphur with food and supplies at Capetown, send it back to Perth, and continue to London on another vessel. He hung around in England from December 1832 until February 1834.

Likewise, the orthodox history is that London took a dim view of Stirling turning up without permission. Hiddins then asks why, in fact, Stirling got knighted four months later, notwithstanding the forlorn state of his Swan colony.

Meanwhile, in late September 1833, Lt Dale in company with or escorted by his commander Captain (later Major) F.C. Irwin, also left Swan colony for London. The probable summons from London was odd because the Swan elements of their 63rd Regiment of Foot were concurrently packing to re-locate north-east to India. Hiddins speculates that the Colonial Office, intrigued by Stirling’s report, also wanted Dale’s eye-witness account of the Dutch settlement. But all the whats, hows and whys are opaque because precisely those documents are missing or censored. Even to this day Hiddins’ researchers can view one volume – where a reference to Dale is literally scratched out — only under supervision in closed rooms.

Hiddins says Dale must have got a shock to find on arrival in London in March 1834 that a mere month earlier his alleged big secret had been touted all over the Leeds Mercury and the provincial press.

British archivists cleverly established the Leeds leaker to be an ex-Indian army Lieutenant T.J. Maslen, living near Halifax, with an armchair passion (eccentricity might be a better word) for Australian exploration and affairs. Maslen somehow gained access to the expedition’s journal and passed extracts to the newspaper, after corrupting some details to suit his own ambitions to be sponsored to Australia. The worst deception was Maslen adjusting the settlement’s latitude from the correct 24.30deg to 18.30deg, placing it wrongly some hundreds of kilometres to the north.

Hiddins used two helicopters for three days trying to locate the appropriate ground features at this wrong 18deg latitude. He finally twigged the correct latitude after magnifying a fold-out map that Maslen owned, to show the man’s faint pencilling and erasings on the margins.

This Leeds Mercury version over the following decade was recycled by other newspapers in England, internationally and in the Swan River colony but with only desultory reactions. The tale of castaway Dutch settlers has resurfaced from time to time in recent decades – including one report by my ex-colleague Alex Harris of The West Australian on June 4, 1988. But there’s been no reaction from academic historians.

The $64 question is why did the asserted Dutch colony, which had survived 125 years, disappear totally within 40 years of its British discovery? The alleged Swan expedition party could have introduced ‘flu or smallpox, or the colony died out from drought, salinity or internal or external violence.  

Critics say Hiddins’ quest is a quixotic example of many stories and fictions about castaways on the WA coast – including real castaways whose fate remains a mystery. (In May 1963 I was the junior member of a party from WA Newspapers which went looking for Dutch castaway evidence from the Vergulde Draeck or “Gilt Dragon” wreck off Ledge Point 100km north of Perth. We checked coastal caves, found nothing but of course wrote riveting stories anyway).

Hiddins’ critics also marvel at his claim of 90 Concordia  survivors marching 2000km from the west coast to settle in the Palm Valley/Hermannsburg zone in the centre of Australia. His response includes

♦ Coral core analysis from the Australian Institute of Marine Science show the northern regions in 1700 enjoyed three times more rain than in the 20th century.

♦ As the party had access to ship’s stores, they would have prioritised gunpowder for shooting game

♦ Seafarers, soldiers and citizens of the 1700s were hardy by today’s standards. At 10km a day they’d reach the centre in well under a year. The journal says that many died on the way.

The critics’ next best attack is that the story is just another traveller’s yarn, of the “Peg-Leg Pete and the pirates” genre. This is why academics can’t be bothered even to rebut it.

Hiddins’ response is that if the 1834 Leeds Mercury newspaper account is just an elaborate hoax, cui bono — who benefitted? No-one got fame, money or even an ego trip. The leaker was anonymous, the named authors of it didn’t exist, and there were no consequences for anyone, good or ill. The alleged expedition itself (as distinct from a newspaper account) also didn’t benefit anyone, except maybe Governor Stirling who, for whatever reason, received an unexpected knighthood. And it’s the job of academic critics, not himself, to refute that the 1832 Dutch settlers’ leader was a “Van Baerle”, presumed descendant of the “Van Baerle” officer on the Concordia in 1708. They also need to refute the account by harboumaster Van Blommestein at Samarang in 1851.

Hiddins claims other support. He has filed what he calls important testimony by a station ringer/stockman Ross Milne in 2005 concerning Aboriginal lore about a “white tribe”. Milne as a young man in 1973-75 worked mustering with motorbikes at Tieyon Station SA, often with a black drover Richard Stewart on the pillion seat. Richard at the campfire used to yarn about Aboriginal stories. After Milne happened to save Stewart from an angry bull, Stewart’s tales became more intimate and secret. As a boy his grandfather told him of a “proper white fella” tribe around the Finke River. They lived “plurry long long time (ago)” and sandy-haired Aboriginal kids (below) were recognised as throwbacks from that tribe. Stewart said the “white tribe” was gone but Milne couldn’t remember if the word that Stewart used was “perished” (violent) or “pinnished” (non-violent). Milne wrote to Hiddins, “I know that there must be other people who know of the white-fella tribe as I have.”

A person less dogged than Hiddins would have given up on this quest long ago. Hiddins in 30 years work, suffered not just from the booby-traps inserted in the original Leeds document, but from a concerted campaign – presumably pre-1850 – to expunge official reports within the Colonial and Public Records Offices. If the reports were innocuous, why were they targeted? Hiddins now hopes for Dutch archivists to hit paydirt sooner or later. His website is here.

Tony Thomas’s latest book from Connor Court is now available: Anthem of the Unwoke – Yep! The other lot’s gone bonkers. For a copy ($35 including postage), email tthomas061@gmail.com


[1] The SMH reported only this week that a bronze infant Buddha found at Shark Bay could be a valuable Ming Dynasty antique. While there is speculation it could be from Zheng He’s 1421 Chinese expedition, Hiddins says he has picked Shark Bay as a likely 1708 landfall for the Concordia survivors from Batavia, where Chinese objets d’art would be plentiful.

[2] Explorer Giles in 1872 reported the Palmer River to be “literally alive with fish, insomuch that the water had a most disagreeable fishy taste, great numbers of fish floating in the water”

32 thoughts on “Were There Dutch Castaways in Central Australia?

  • ianl says:

    Quite entertaining, Tony T.

    But whenever I feel an hypothetical Twilight Zone coming on, something like this happens:

    >” … Hiddins’ researchers can view one volume – where a reference to Dale is literally scratched out — only under supervision in closed rooms.” [part quote from the article].

    Something is being hidden, even if it was only false and spiteful 1800’s mischief.

  • Alistair says:

    Well done Tony! Great piece!
    On the basis that everything an Aborigine says must be believed …
    “… Stewart’s tales became more intimate and secret. As a boy his grandfather told him of a “proper white fella” tribe around the Finke River. They lived “plurry long long time (ago)” ”

    On that basis alone I would have thought that historians and the ABC MUST fall in behind this story!

  • Brian Boru says:

    A very interesting article Tony, I enjoyed reading it. That is except for your mention of Steve Irwin who once held his baby child within reach of a crocodile and who molested a sting ray until it killed him.
    He also campaigned against guided crocodile hunts. Thereby denying aboriginals an excellent and much needed employment opportunity. His actions there may have even resulted in some fatal attacks.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Fascinating, although more than sketchy. Shipwrecks were plentiful along the north-west and west coasts of Australia, over centuries. It is possible that often noted blonde-haired aboriginal children were carrying occasional white people’s genes from long ago shipwreck survivors who joined in with aboriginal tribes. This was the option for individual survival if shipwrecked. That a whole group survived independently and trekked is less plausible although not beyond possibility. Also, white hair in aboriginal children could be due to some fragment of albino genes at work, and nothing to do with racial origin. Albinism is not unknown in aboriginal populations.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    The ‘what is’ scenario is always a draw card for public interest. I’m thinking here of the Tasmanian Tiger.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    what if not what is

  • john.singer says:

    I had followed the “Bush Tucker Man” series when it was first on TV and also about a year ago I found it on youtube. Les Hiddens was not only a very accomplished bushman but a no-nonsense one. The Dons of Modern Academia specialise in ignoring the discoveries and ideas of people whose education and training were of a more practical nature.

    Hiddens usually travelled alone (therefore without corroboration) giving academia all the ammunition they need. Like the dedicated art explorer Grahame Walsh whose theories also fell before the onslaught of academic snobs Hiddens has earned the right to be taken seriously.

    It is not surprising that in that area a “tribe”, white or not, which needed a wall and a militia, no longer exists. Perhaps it was a “massacre” that didn’t fit Henry Reynolds’ writing agenda.

  • Lonsdale says:

    Who cares if it is true? Sell the film rights

  • Andrew Griffiths says:

    Perhaps the Dutch castaways met up with some Portuguese shipwreck survivors and formed a colony of European sophisticates eating Chinese food with the remnants of Admiral Cheng Ho’s expedition during the early Ming dynasty. Ludwig Leichhardt dropped in along the way.

  • Stephen Ireland says:

    I second Alistair’s motion.

    There is also the mystery of what might have happened to the Dutch sailors marooned on the mainland after the wreck of the Batavia.


    They may have become earlier editions of William Buckley.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Some medical evidence of ‘castaway’ genetic inputs?

    “Two diseases Porphyria Varigata and Ellis van Creveld, which has a high incidence among Western Australian Aborigines and also the Old Order Amish are associated with the possible cohabitation. Both these syndromes are the result of ‘founder effect’ in their respective communities: the Mennonites of Lancaster County, and the Dutch in South Africa. The connection here is that particular portion of the 18th century Dutch population from which the crew of the Zuytdorp, Batavia and Gilt Dragon were recruited came from groups that spawned the Annabaptists, Menonnites or Old Order Amish.”

    See more detail @


  • Margaret Graetz says:

    Margaret asks
    How did they get past all the tribal boundaries alive?

  • rosross says:

    Fascinating and plausible. One would have thought though, that if they died out in the 19th century that some traces would be found.

  • Stephen Ireland says:

    Josephine Flood, in her The Original Australians, states that there is evidence of two smallpox outbreak on the west coast of WA prior to 19th century British settlement.
    I suspect that her evidence comes from:
    Judy Campbell ‘Smallpox in Aboriginal Australia , 1829-31’, in Historical Studies 20, 81,
    (Oct.1963), pp.536-559.
    which I am unable to access immediately.
    I would appreciate advice from anyone who can cast some light on Flood’s statement.
    The point being that if verifiable there must have been human vectors. If so, who were they, and when?

    • rosross says:

      In the late 1850’s the English botanist, Augustus Oldfield, was exploring around WA and made note of European facial characteristics in some Aboriginal groups. From The Aborigines of Australia:

      s. At Champion Bay, in Western Australia, I was
      much surprised to find in some of the old natives features nearly
      approaching the European type, although those parts had been
      settled but a very few years. I mentioned this fact to a medical
      gentleman, who informed me that he had made the same observa?
      tion, and could account for it in no other way but by supposing
      that a ship which had sailed from Calcutta to Swan River in the
      early days of the colony, and had never since been heard of, was
      lost in these parts, and that some of her people who had escaped
      had mingled with this tribe, a surmise strengthened by the tradi?
      tions of the natives, who to this day call Perth (the capital of
      Western Australia) Ca-cut-ta, having probably mistaken. the
      place of departure for that of the destination of the rescued
      people: added to this, they often asserted that in the event of

      A. Oldfield?The Aborigines of Australia. 219
      the departure of the whites from among them, there were many
      of their females whom their laws would permit them to eat, they
      having white blood in their veins. This approach to the Euro?
      pean type of features I have also observed among the natives
      about Geographe Bay, where the unfortunate Dr. Vasse was so
      cruelly deserted by his inhuman superior. According to the
      accounts of these natives, this unhappy naturalist lived many
      years among them, conforming to all their habits, and at length
      dying a natural death?” self-clied ” said an old native in return
      to my question as to the mode of his death. While botanising
      the country about the Murchison River (1858-9), I was desirous
      of making a journey to Shark’s Bay, and to that end sought of
      the natives all the information they could give respecting the
      nature of the country between these two points.

      • Stephen Ireland says:

        Thank you very much, Ros Ross

        My recollection is that Flood mentions evidence of pre-British contact smallpox as having been found near Geraldton and Busselton. Possible parallels with Oldfield’s reports.

        I find that, generally speaking, the primary sources, such as your Oldfield have a credibility not always discernible in more recent academic publications on a range of contentious issues. Of course one cannot argue that such documents don’t betray biases or now-discarded theories but, on the other hand, they weren’t infected or controlled by post-modern ideologies.

        A classic case being my horror when I discovered that a 2004 re-publication of Phyllis Kaberry’s 1939 Aboriginal Woman Sacred or Profane has been edited by a modern anthropologist reportedly at the behest of descendants of the subject patri-tribes of Kaberry’s ethnographic study in the East Kimberley. Even the ANU Dictionary of Biography shortens this book’s name to Aboriginal Woman, which again detracts from Kaberry’s intent.

        • rosross says:

          I do not believe it is possible to understand records from the past without a reasonable understanding of the culture/society in which the reports were written. Bias in the 19th century tended to be theological at core, but otherwise, what people wrote was what they saw and heard without selective editing as we see today and as you cite.

          The Christian mindset was that primitive peoples should be helped to join the modern world and to become enlightened in terms of religion and culture. We do similar things today in Third World countries.

          • NarelleG says:


            [The Christian mindset was that primitive peoples should be helped to join the modern world and to become enlightened in terms of religion and culture. We do similar things today in Third World countries.]

            Excellent insight.

  • Sindri says:

    Fascinating, Tony, and thanks for publicising it.
    But a few issues. First, Anglo-Dutch relations may have been “tense” in the 1830s, I didn’t know that and don’t dispute it, but they were not at war, and it seems a bit far fetched to think that the British would have thought some sort of threatening sovereignty issues could have been generated by the existence of a wretched settlement of hand-to-mouth dutch shipwreck descendants. It is hard to think, too, that common humanity would not have generated some sort of rescue attempt.
    But secondly, let’s allow that theory to its fullest extent. Is Les seriously suggesting that the British government is now, in the third decade of the 21st century, trying continue the cover-up? That it could care less? Les says that documents are “missing or censored”. More detail please. Exactly what documents are “missing or censored”? One can hear that sort of talk on Netflix shows about UFOs. Let’s identify exactly the documents said to be “missing”, and eliminate the obvious reasons why 200-odd year old documents of this kind can’t be found.
    And thirdly, what on earth does Les mean when he says, as reported by Tony, that “even to this day Hiddens’ researchers can view one volume – where a reference to Dale is literally scratched out — only under supervision in closed rooms.” Shock horror – when you access hand-written government records from the 1830s you have to do it in a closed room under close supervision? Of course you do – you wouldn’t be allowed to access any such archival documents on any other terms. And what does Les mean by “only one volume”? Volume of what?
    If Les’ researchers actually weren’t permitted to access a document that in fact existed (rather than a document that someone speculated existed), one would need some convincing that it was because the British government in 2023 was involved in a conspiracy to conceal it, and had co-opted all the necessary librarians and civil servants to maintain a wall of silence over what is now a matter of great historical interest, but utterly unimportant as a matter of state – that the British government nearly 200 years ago kept it a secret from the Dutch. I mean, come off it. Like all conspiracy theories, it founders on the ludicrousness of it, and the sheer improbability of the people involved agreeing to carry it out.
    It is this last contention that indicates to me that Les’ judgment is a bit skewed. It must at least cast doubt on his scholarship. But let it be investigated by all means.

    • Sindri says:

      PS The Aboriginal child in that photo plainly has bleached hair (which is staring to come out at the roots). There may well be “sandy haired aboriginal kids”, but that child isn’t one of them.

      • Tony Thomas says:

        Les’s reply re blond haired child:
        That Blond Haired photo was taken in 1980 in Central Australia and Aboriginal people did not bleach the hair of their young infants. The Blond hair was a very common trait and was not artificial as the Anthropologist Baldwin Spencer noted when taking part in the Horne Expedition. The dark base area you speak of may have something to do with dark scalp skin.

    • Tony Thomas says:

      HI Sindri, Les has provided the following responses to your comments – Tony T
      “It is hard to think, too, that common humanity would not have generated some sort of rescue attempt.” Hiddins: Why would they need to be rescued … none of them 124 years later were shipwrecked persons but now regarded themselves as local Luritja or Australian/New Holland personnel.
      “Is Les seriously suggesting that the British government is now, in the third decade of the 21st century, trying continue the cover-up?” (No) That it could care less? Les says that documents are “missing or censored”. More detail please.

      (1) Copy of letter concerning Lt. Dale’s activities in Colonial Office records – sentence edited out.
      (2) The original of the above letter in Lord Somerset’s papers – letter missing.
      (3) Sterling’s unexpected arrival back in England in December 1832, – no mention in CO records.
      (4) Stirling’s Report to Colonial Office on Swan River Exploration to July 1 832 – report missing and extracted.
      (5) Copy of above report sent to Royal Geographic Society by Hay October 1832 – report missing
      (6) Colonial Office volume which once contained above report – volume still classified in 1999.
      (7) Lord Howick’s ( Colonial Office Under Secretary) private journal for 1832 – volume missing.
      (8) Prime Minister Grey’s personal papers concerning the Australian Colonies – non existent.
      (10) The original letter from Grey to Stanley containing the words…. this Dutch business. – missing.

      “Exactly what documents are ‘missing or censored’? (See above. The documents went missing back in the 1830’s or there abouts .. not today)
 “When you access hand-written government records from the 1830s you have to do it in a closed room under close supervision? Of course you do…”

      Not so.

      This same archive, CO18/10, also informs us that a copy of this report by Stirling was despatched to the Royal Geographical Society, in a letter from the Colonial Secretary Hay, on the 4th October 1832. A search for the material in the Royal Geographic Society archives in 2000, failed to locate the material, and the archivist at the RGS, presumes it may have been returned to the Colonial Office at the time, or otherwise disposed of. This is a rather startling situation, particularly in view of the fact that the Royal Geographical Society was in its early years, paying particular interest to the geography of the Australian continent. This PRO archive by the way is still classified as a “restricted document” and can only be accessed after written application has been duly processed and approved.
      Other related volumes concerned with the settlement at Swan River, are not classified and are open to public access. A researcher may only view this volume in a secure room and under direct staff supervision. At least that was the case back in December 1999 when I was last there. Staff at the Public Records Office are unable to explain why this should be the case, and simply dismiss it as a situation they inherited, for whatever reason.

      “And what does Les mean by “only one volume”? Volume of what?”

      Colonial Office Archives at the Public Records Office located at Kew London UK. It wasn’t concealed but rather you could view it under supervision back then as compared to other volumes where this restriction was not in place.
      “Like all conspiracy theories, it founders on the ludicrousness of it, and the sheer improbability of the people involved agreeing to carry it out.
It is this last contention that indicates to me that Les’ judgment is a bit skewed. It must at least cast doubt on his scholarship. But let it be investigated by all means.”

      The British have a bit of a reputation for embracing secrecy and even to this day have documents hanging over from WW 11 that remain highly classified well into the future. On this topic read the book The Culture of Secrecy Britain 1832 – 1998 by David Vincent.

      • Sindri says:

        OK, then if Les is not saying that there is an active cover up still in operation, which was not a strained inference from the words quoted above, then I’m very happy to apologise to him for suggesting that he was saying that. Like I said, fascinating and it needs to be investigated.

    • Stephen Ireland says:

      Thanks, Sindri, for raising a number of thought provoking questions.
      On the question of Dutch-English relations in the early 1830s this record of the Dutch corvette, Pollux, mention two likely causes of tension at that very time.
      One being the opportunities for British and American traders to do a bit of arms trading with the Javanese and possibly also the Minangkabau who were then resisting the formation of what eventually became the Dutch East Indies
      The other was potential British connivance in the 1830-31 Belgian Revolution, which led to cessation of the states which formed Belgium from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands:

  • Brenden T Walters says:

    Remember when you would visit Wadeye. I was the priest there from 83 – 86. Those were the days. Johnnie Chula, an old mate of yours has long gone home to his ancestors, as are all of those great old blokes. You featured Johnnie in a BTM episode. I have never been back – too old now. Hope you are going well. Thanks Quadrant.

  • Macspee says:

    The authorities in London would have some concern that the Dutch might claim the West coast and anxious to keep the facts secret.

  • Henry Van Zanden says:

    Thank you for your article. I had researched the story of the ‘Lost Dutch Colony’ for about ten years before writing the book, ‘The Lost White Tribes of Australia, Part One: 1656 The First Settlement of Australia. It was published in 2012. Although I attempted to collaborate with Les after discovering its location, Les did not want me to continue as he was convinced he had solved the mystery himself. I believe he thought I might tell him what he believed had happened, which would have made retelling his story a problem. The location of ‘my’ colony is not far from the Western Australian coastline and just over 100km north of Perth. The wide use of Greenwich as the Prime Meridian was not adopted until 1884. Previously, most captains used the Spanish Prime Meridian in the Azores or Mt Teide, a volcano on the Canary Islands, due to its height and visibility at sea. I was never convinced that its location was somewhere in the middle of Australia. What happens when you convert the English Prime meridian to Spanish? The longitude runs precisely through what I believe is the location of the Dutch colony. I can’t release the site as the farm owner has threatened me with legal letters not to speak about its location publicly. He wishes to avoid the publicity that attracts treasure seekers. Nevertheless, my book can be purchased on my website: australiadiscovered.com.au
    The Dutch colony was from the Vergulde Draeck (Gilt Dragon) that was wrecked in 1656.
    Comparing Leeds Mercury Article with Vergulde Draeck
    The Vergulde Draeck sank in 1656. The Leeds Mercury article states that, their fathers came there about one hundred and seventy years ago, as they said, from a distant land across the great sea; and that their ship broke … The timeframe fits in far better than any other shipwreck along the Western Australian coast. The Vergulde Draeck sank 176 years before 1832, that’s about one hundred and seventy years ago. The Netherlands is from a distant land across the great sea and Vergulde Draeck also broke after striking the reef.

    The calculation that eighty men and ten of their sisters (female passengers?) [Dale’s assumption] with many things were saved on shore was also very close to the 79 Vergulde Draeck survivors. The Leeds Mercury total adds up to 90 survivors. In 1657, two rescue ships arrived in search of the survivors. The 11 men from the Goede Hoop who were sent ashore to search for the survivors could account for the extra eleven. Unfortunately, the rescue boat was smashed in the heavy surf. Unwilling to risk any more men, the Goede Hoop sailed away leaving the eleven sailors marooned. The second rescue ship sighted shelters left by the survivors and men in their shelters. The 11 from the Goede Hoop plus the original 79 Vergulde Draeck make precisely 90, the same number given in the Leeds Mercury article.

    Eventually, the survivors could wait no longer along the beach without sufficient food or water.
    A report stated that they had left the wreck with very few victuals and fresh water and were consequently about to go inland after the departure of the mentioned schuyt (sailing boat), where it was hoped that they would have found provisions and drinking water. According to the Leeds Mercury, their fathers were compelled by famine, after the loss of their great vessel, to travel towards the rising sun … and by the wise advice of their sisters, they crossed a ridge of land, and meeting with a rivulet on the other side, followed its course and were led to a spot they now inhabit, where they have continued ever since.

    Travelling towards the rising sun meant that they travelled easterly, and the only river they could have met was the Moore River. Coins from the Vergulde Draeck wreck have subsequently been found in various locations along the Moore River.

    The Leeds Mercury article refers to the Dutch survivors as growing plantations consisting of maize and yams. In this part of southwestern Australia, we know that there was a deliberate planting of yams that grew nowhere else in Australia. This yam is known as the Dioscorea hastifolia and is related to yams in South Africa. It was also popular in the Dutch East Indies in the seventeenth century. These types of yams were often taken on board Dutch ships as a food supply during long sea voyages. In 1836, George Fletcher Moore, the man who discovered the Moore River, described a bulbous root called Conne by the natives, which was almost the size of a large potato.

    In the same year, Moore had come across a native and his “cardo” (wife). She is described as a young woman of a very pleasing countenance, and something of European features, and long, wavy, almost flaxen-coloured hair. [flaxen – pale yellowish to yellowish brown colour]

    Raffles Bay
    The Leeds Mercury article claimed the Expedition had set off from Raffles Bay.

    A friend of mine lately arrived from Singapore, via India overland, having been one of a party who landed at Raffles Bay, on the north coast of New Holland, on the 10th of April, 1832, and made a two months’ excursion into the interior.

    Port Raffles, from which place we were now distant nearly five hundred miles … [804 km]

    Raffles Bay suddenly becomes Port Raffles, a place Stirling had helped set up in 1827. The 39th Regiment mentioned in the journal also happened to be there as well.

    The first attempt at colonization was in 1825, when an expedition from Sydney, consisting of a detachment of the 39th Regiment … landed in Albany.

    Although Ensign Marmaduke George Nixon, was not at Port Raffles, he had served with the 39th Regiment.

    Located on the Cobourg Peninsula in the Northern Territory, it was named by the explorer Phillip King in 1818 after Sir Thomas Raffles, the founder of Singapore. However, disease, attacks by Aboriginals, and the negative reports London received from Commandant Smythe, its first commander, caused the settlement to be closed down in 1829. Therefore the expedition could not have departed from Port Raffles. Port Raffles was a name used to hide the real starting point of the expedition: Albany.

    The Swan River Colony didn’t have a reliable port in their early years and so had to rely on the very distant port of Albany which was the colony’s only deepwater port. The construction of Fremantle Harbour was not completed until 1893. Albany was founded in 1826 and like Raffles Bay was set up as a military outpost to check possible French ambitions but was initially named Frederickstown after King George III’s son, Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany. After 1831, Frederickstown was transferred to the control of the Swan River Colony and renamed Albany by Governor James Stirling at the beginning of 1832. Stirling assumed the political authority of Albany in 1832.

    Albany was settled three years before the Swan River Colony. Therefore there could only be one port in Western Australia in 1832 from which an expedition could possibly depart and that was Albany.

    Coincidentally Albany is about five hundred miles [804 km] from the Karakin Lakes if they followed the path that every explorer took from Perth. That is, after travelling first from Albany to Perth, they travelled in a ENE direction to York before turning in a NNW direction. The geography fits well with the story of the Lost White Tribe and the Vergulde Draeck survivors. Albany and not Port Raffles was the point of departure of the expedition. However, the longitude and latitude coordinates did not fit well with Western Australia as the location.

    I am happy to be scrutinised by the author of this article and send Tony Thomas a book. I am not opposed to Les and what he is writing. There have been many examples of ‘white tribes’ or shipwreck sailors across Australia, including northern Australia. I’m afraid I have to disagree with his belief that the origin of the Dutch colony cited in the Leeds Mercury newspaper was located in central Australia.

  • Tony Thomas says:

    Les Hiddins replies:
    Sorry Henry,
    I didn’t follow your approach due to obvious reasons. The Leeds Mercury has clear detail concerning Latitude, Longitude, Van Baerle etc. Tracking back with the name Van Baerle via Dr Femme Gastra at Leiden University we then discovered a ship called Concordia which had a Van Baerle on board when it disappeared in 1708. Prior to Dr Gastra discovering that detail, the ship Concordia was basically an unknown quantity. For many historians the name Concordia was quite a surprise and a new name to add to the previous list of shipwrecks along the WA coastline.

    No matter how much you want to twist and turn the detail, English explorers such as Cook and Flinders and a host of others were wedded to Greenwich as their basis for Lat and Long. You mention Yams and Yams of course were always a staple for Aboriginal people in Central Australia and are not limited to the West Australian coastal area. No doubt over the years the Concordia survivors would have picked up on that knowledge.

    Travelling to the East does not necessarily mean that you must encounter the Moore River as you suggest, as it all depends on the start point along the Western Australian coastline.

    From an Archeological point of view, when discussing artefact found in location, coins for instance, does not necessarily mean positive evidence of occupation. I for instance can find a Chinese coin in my back yard but that does not mean the Chinese were once located in my backyard.

    You mention a Marmaduke Nixon as being a possible candidate ..sorry. Marmaduke Nixon arrived Sydney Town NSW in mid August 1832, direct from London. He then departed with his regiment for India aboard the ship Hercules on the second of December 1832. All too late to be the one, and far too young and inexperienced to do the job.

    Fort Wellington at Raffles Bay was closed in 1829 and all troops removed. Thats exactly why Stirling chose it as the start point for this inland survey …. There was no one there to report the expedition putting ashore and that secrecy was necessary as Stirling was trespassing on the Colony of New South Wales. Thats why the Longitude run’s right through the Fort Wellington location.

    The shipwreck of the Concordia has absolutely nothing to do with the Verguld Draeck (Gilt Dragon) and should not be confused as having any connection whatsoever. It really is a pity that the “farmer” wont let you tell us where your colony is. Those farmers can be a pesky lot. Good luck with your book ‘The Lost White Tribes of Australia’.

  • Henry Van Zanden says:

    Thank you, Les.

    No, Nixon wasn’t the explorer. I agree with that. We both agree that Dale was the explorer who found the colony.

    We will have to disagree about where the colony is, but please visit my website, australiadiscovered.com.au and perhaps look at my book, ‘The Lost White Tribes of Australia Part One.’ Part Two and Three will hopefully be published this year.
    I am still very much interested in what you have found as there were many more Dutch sailors marooned in Australia than we realise.

    I plan to visit Qld south of Mackay around August/ September and the Kimberley in 2025.

    You mention Raffles Bay as the starting point. I believe that it was Albany.
    When you read the explorers’ journals up to 1832 and then compare it to the map enclosed at the back of the book, one exploration is NOT written about. That is the one that follows a northerly inland route but then turns south-south west towards the coast. Curiously, the explorer’s track circles the Karakin Lakes and proceeds south to the Swan River Colony.

    Not long afterward, Stirling makes his trip to England. On his return, he sets a boundary around the Karakin Lakes, preventing any explorers or farmers from encroaching on that region.

    I agree that the Concordia has nothing to do with the Vergulde Draeck. If you ever visit Sydney, please let me know, as I am sure we will have a good yarn together and perhaps compare notes.

    Please let me know if you have a new book on this matter.

  • Tony Thomas says:

    Les Hiddins responds:
    The situation concerning the Leeds Mercury article is very simple. The fact that there was a ship called the Concordia which carried a passenger named Constantine Van Baerle on its final fateful voyage in 1708 is mentioned not only in the Dutch Central Bureau of Genealogy but also in the Dutch East India (VOC) records identified by Professor Femme S Gastra at Leiden University in the Netherlands. The name Van Baerle is noted in the Leeds Mercury article when printed in 1834.

    Not only that, but the expedition into Central Australia that the Leeds Mercury reports upon was also endorsed in later years by the then Harbour Master at Semarang, Dutch Each Indies, as having taken place as mentioned in the Leeds Mercury article. He (Van Bloomestein) recalls the ship berthing within his port of Semarang from New Holland and the relevant details were conveyed to him by the ships captain at the time. That tends to confirm that such an expedition actually took place and it partly involved shipping movements around Northern Australia or New Holland as it was then sometimes called.

    It is worth noting that whilst anchored at Raffles Bay during the construction of Fort Wellington, Stirling was curious about the inland aspects of this newly discovered location. As a result he sent one of his Naval Lt. (Lt Carnac) and a party of six to explore the so called “interior”. It was only a few days duration and appears to confirm the existence of a running creek two miles from the Fort Wellington location. See Historical Records of Australia, series iii, vol v, p 812.

    Given that the Longitude of 132º 25′ 30″ cuts right through Fort Wellington, and at the time of the expedition, that detail of the Forts location had yet to be made public, makes it a very telling aspect. Someone had the inside knowledge of that location. (Ie try Stirling and Dale). As an old Infantry soldier, I can see that was the start point Longitude and a simple compass bearing due south alleviated any need to make further observations concerning Longitude. Just continue marching South.

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