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The Wreck of the Tryal, 1622: the Emotions of Contact and Collision in early Australian Encounters

An online seminar hosted by The University of Western Australia. Part of the CHE Virtual Fellows Seminar Series


Image:  Detail from the bottom left corner of Hessel Gerritsz's 1627 map Caert van't Landt van d'Eendracht ("Chart of the Land of Eendracht"), showing a feature labelled Hier ist Engels schip de Trial vergaen in Iunias, A° 1622 ("Here the English ship Trial was wrecked in June 1622"). Wikimedia Commons.

Date: Tuesday 26 July 2022
Time: 4:00pm AWST / 6:00pm AEST
Venue: Online via Zoom. Please email emotions@uwa.edu.au for connection details. 
Enquiries: emotions@uwa.edu.au

In May 1622 the Tryal, a ship of the East India Company, sailing from Plymouth on its maiden voyage, struck uncharted rocks roughly 32 kilometres from the Montebello Islands, Western Australia, leading to the reef becoming known as Tryal Rocks. Following the captain and a small crew taking a skiff and heading for Java, the remaining survivors stayed on the Montebello Islands for seven days, before themselves heading for Java. Of the crew of 193, only forty-four would survive.

This accident was to mark the first English sighting of Australia (the Dutch had made the first known European sighting some years earlier), the first extended stay in Australia of any Europeans, and the first recorded wreck off Australia.

In addition to the story of the Tryal, this paper will touch upon records and accounts of some of the first sightings of Australia by Dutch and English ships, as well as the first encounters with Aboriginal Australians by groups from both European nations. It will investigate the emotions of these sightings and encounters – what they inspired in the sailors, and, to the extent that this may be possible, the emotions inspired in the Aboriginal communities encountered. What can be determined about what the sailors were inspired to feel, both by the new land before their eyes, and its native inhabitants? What were their impressions of native florae and faunae? It will investigate how these emotions were recorded and preserved – how did they colour the printed accounts, how do they characterise the diaries, and how do they influence other documents, such as maps and nautical charts? Finally, this paper will investigate the approaches taken towards the disposal of the corpse of those who died so far from home, and the emotional impact that this had on the communities upon these ships.


Kirk Essary (The University of Western Australia)


Gordon D Raeburn (Honorary Research Fellow, The University of Western Australia).