These activities target Year 4: Humanities and Social Sciences. They encourage students to personalise their learning about the United East India Company and the maritime exploration of Australia.

Imagining Life at Sea

The Age of Sail lasted from the sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century. It was a period in which international trade and naval warfare were dominated by sailing ships. The Dutch were a major player in this era, sending many ships out into the world, as they built their trading empire.

Students have now learnt about the perils of travelling by ship and the rewards of doing so, given that trade was such an important activity in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Have students choose a Dutch ship from the era of the United East India Company that they have learnt about while using this resource. It might be the Batavia, the Zuytdorp (‘South Land’), the Vergulde Draeck (‘Gilt Dragon’), the Duyfken (‘Little Dove’) or the Eendracht (‘Unity’), or perhaps even a ship that went missing whose fate is still unknown.

They are to write a journal entry, as a person on board that ship. They could be Dirk Hartog, on the Eendracht, landing in 1616 and nailing a plate to a post at Shark Bay, or a deckhand that survived the Batavia wreck. They might be Willem Janszoon, Captain of the Duyfken, and the first European to meet with Indigenous Australians. Perhaps they are Vlamingh replacing Hartog’s plate with his own. They can write a series of journal entries to reflect different moments in the journey.

Customs and sea shanties

In the age of exploration, when it took many months to travel to your destination, a ship’s crew enjoyed a range of traditions to help pass the time.

Have students investigate the Crossing the Line Ceremony, still observed today.

They may also like to find a Dutch sea shanty or shantykoor to share with their classmates.