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Cornelis Houtman

Cornelis de Houtman (April 2 1565 - August 1597) was a Dutch explorer who discovered a new sea route from Europe to Indonesia.

In 1592 Cornelis de Houtman was sent by Amsterdam merchants sent to Lisbon (Lissabon) to discover as much information on the Spice Islands as he could. At the same time as he returned to Amsterdam, Jan Huygen van Linschoten returned from India. The merchants determined that Bantam (Banten) provided the best opportunity to buy spices. In 1594 the merchants founded the company 'compagnie van Verre', and on April 2 1595 4 ships left Amsterdam: Amsterdam, Hollandia, Mauritius and Duyfken.

On June 27, after a long stay at Madagascar, and quarrels among the captains and traders, the ships arrived at Banten. Probably due to scheming by local Portuguese traders, and undiplomatic behaviour of the Dutch, they failed to buy the spices. They then sailed east to Madura, where they were received peacefully. Fearing treachery, they brutally attacked the civilian population and fled with their ships. Houtman was dismissed as expedition leader by a revolt of the scheepsraad.

They finally managed to obtain some spice on February 26 1597. Portuguese ships prevented them from taking in water and supplies at St. Helena. Out of the 249 man crew, only 87 returned, to weak to moor their ships themselves.

Though the trip was a humanitarian disaster and financially probably just broke even, the next year six expeditions left the Netherlands for present day Indonesia. It may be regarded as the start of the Dutch colonisation of this island chain.