The Dutch shared in the early Pacific developments because their country was part of the heritage of the King of Spain. Dutch seamen and navigators also gained experience in southern and southeastern Asia where they were employed by the Portuguese. After the Dutch revolted against Philip II of Spain in 1568 they published charts on the Far East that became the basis of cartographical representation of the areas for many years.
A Dutch fleet established direct trade relations with the East Indies in 1597. The following year five expeditions, containing twenty-two vessels, left Holland for Eastern Asia. In 1602 the United East Indies Company was established to end the ruinous competition between various Dutch companies in the exploitation of the East Indies.
The Dutch were more interested in profits from trading in welldeveloped lands and quickly lost interest in new areas if opportunities for trade were limited. However, there were a few notable exceptions that added measurably to the world's knowledge of the Pacific. Dutch merchants who were jealous of the East Indies Company's monopoly of the trade tried to reach the East Indies from Holland by sailing south of Tierra del Fuego. Drake had made this voyage but his exploit had been questioned by later cartographers. The Dutch vessels under Jakob Le Maire and piloted by William Schouten in 1616 sailed around Cape Horn, which they named after their native town of Horn. They passed through the Tuamotus, discovered Hoorn Island, between Fiji and Samoa, and skirted the shores of New Ireland and New Guinea, discovering the Admiralties and Schouten groups. Other Dutch navigators, soon after Schouten, established the fact that Staten Island, which is separated from Tierra del Fuego by the Le Maire Strait, was an island and not part of the southern continent.
In 1636 a new Governor General, Anton Van Diemen, arrived in Batavia and initiated the most ambitious program of general exploration planned by the Dutch. He planned to solve some of the cartographical mysteries surrounding the New Guinea area, explore the waters in the vicinity of Japan, and settle the question of whether the land now known as Australia, which had appeared on some Portuguese and French maps and had been briefly touched by some Dutch navigator, was actually part of Terra Australis Incognita. The first expedition to explore the southern continent came to a quick end on the coast of New Guinea in 1636 when the commander of the expedition was killed by natives. In 1639 Janszoon Tasman was sent into Japanese waters to look for the Gold and Silver Islands, which had long appeared on European maps. This expedition failed to find much but water although it did serve to erase some non-existent lands from the Pacific charts.
In 1642 Tasman was sent to explore the southern land and find whether it was possible to sail south of it. Tasman discovered the land south of Australia that bears his name today, although it was first named Van Dieman's Land and thought to be part of Australia. He proceeded eastward and discovered New Zealand, which was thought to be part of the southern continent. Turning northward, Tasman was probably the first European to discover the Tonga or Friendly Islands and the Fiji Islands.
In 1644 Tasman explored the northern coast of Australia, mapping the Gulf of Carpenteria and the northwestern coast of Australia as far as Willems River. Van Dieman died soon after this voyage, and the East Indies Company was unwilling to continue costly exploration that promised to bring little return in profits.
The next major voyage of the Dutch that resulted in exploration was that of Mynheer Jakob Roggeveen, who, in 1722, discovered and named Easter Island.
Unlike the Spanish, the Dutch were fairly free in releasing the information gained from their explorations. Accounts of Tasman's explorations were published, and maps were quickly released showing the new lands. The maps published by the Bleau family and others, representing some of the major achievements of cartography up to this time, quickly reflected the new information about the Pacific.