Flagship coins recall forgotten "Dove's" first landing


A long-forgotten 17th Century ship that brought the first known Europeans onto Australian shores is finally being remembered thanks to the Royal Australian Mint.

The little-known Dutch scout ship Duyfken (the 'Little Dove') is one of four ships which helped set the course of Australia's early European history to feature in a silver Crown size proof coin set.

The others include James Cook's Endeavour, Arthur Phillip's Sirius, and Matthew Flinders' Investigator.

It was the Duyfken, on a pioneering voyage from the Spice Islands (Indonesia) in 1606, that is recognised as the first known European contact with the Australian continent and the first recorded meeting between Europeans and Indigenous Australians - nearly 170 years before James Cook.

Duyfken was built in Holland about 1598 as a scout ship (jacht) to test the waters, like the dove from Noah's Ark, for the larger ships of the Dutch spice fleet.

The vessel made two voyages from the Netherlands to the East Indies, but it was under Captain Willem Janszoon that the little ship ended up in what is known today as the Gulf of Carpenteria.

Janszoon made the first charts of Australia's coastline and recorded the western shore of Cape York Peninsula.

The crew also went ashore, 30 km north of today's Weipa in Queensland, and made the first recorded contact with the natives. However, the dramatic clash of cultures meant the first landing of the 'Little Dove' on Australian shores was far from peaceful.

A replica of Duyfken, built in Fremantle WA, retraced the Janszoon's historic voyage in 2000.

Also built in Western Australia is a replica of the HMB Endeavour, a name which has become synonymous with the dawn of British claims and future colonisation of the Australian continent.

Although now a legendary vessel in nautical history, the original Endeavour had humble beginnings. The boxy vessel was originally called the Earl of Pembroke and was built for transporting coal. However, her sturdy and roomy frame was considered ideal for grander ocean voyages so she was refitted and rechristened to become the icon we know today.

HMS Sirius, the flagship of Captain Arthur Phillip's First Fleet, also began life under less exalted circumstances. Originally known as Berwick, it was an armed storeship for the East India trade before its leading role in bringing the first boatloads of convicts, marine officers and sailors to Australia's east coast to establish a prison colony.

After the chartered ships of the First Fleet returned to England, Sirius stayed on and proved a lifeline to the struggling colony by journeying to Cape Town and back for desperately needed supplies.

Completing the four coin set is HMS Investigator, appropriate as the vessel in which noted explorer Matthew Flinders completed the first circumnavigation of the Australian continent, sailing around Australia one and a half times.

Commencing in Cape Leeuwin WA, Flinders' odyssey to chart the Australian coastline took two years from 1801-1803 and proved that New Holland and New South Wales were one land mass. Notably, Flinders was also the first to consistently call the continent 'Australia.'


The four vessels featured on the coins have been sculpted in intricate detail by Mint designer Vladimir Gottwald, with technical advice from the West Australian Maritime Museum.

Each coin is pure silver with a face value of $5 and the set comes in an elegant antique presentation case echoing with its own air of nautical treasure and swashbuckling ocean adventure.

The set also comes with an informative booklet specially written by an expert from the Australian National Maritime Museum recounting the stories behind each vessel and those first hazardous ventures into Australia's unchartered waters.

Priced at $165.00 (incl GST) the captivating set has attracted strong demand from as far away as Europe. With an international mintage limited to only 10,000, this chronicle of maritime history opens up a world of rediscovery for Australians of the 21st Century.

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Coin Description Download
Duyfken coin Duyfken
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Endeavour coin Endeavour
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Investigator coin Investigator
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Sirius Sirius
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TIFF 750kB (Zip)