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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 April 2006, 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK
Replica retraces 1606 Dutch trip
The replica Duyfken set sail from Fremantle, Australia

A replica of the first European ship to visit Australia 400 years ago has set off on a year-long voyage in the footsteps of 17th Century sailors.

The Dutch ship Duyfken, or Little Dove, first mapped Australia's coastline in 1606, and a Fremantle-built replica is to retrace its journey.

The ship's builders say the project aims to help dispel the myth that Captain Cook "discovered" Australia.

The Dutch and Australian prime ministers waved the crew off.

The original Duyfken, a Dutch East India Company ship captained by Willem Janszoon, was the first recorded ship to visit and map Australia, charting 320km (198 miles) of Cape York Peninsula.

In 1606, the Duyfken sailed from the Indonesian island of Banda in search of gold and trade opportunities on the fabled island of Nova Guinea.

Dutch courage

Captain Janszoon and the Duyfken sailed beyond Papua New Guinea and explored and charted part of the coast of Nova Guinea. They did not find gold - but they did find the northern coast of a huge continent: Australia.

Senator Ian Campbell, the Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage, said the project aimed to give those who visit the ship "a deep appreciation of history in the raw and the courage and skills of 17th Century seafaring explorers".

The 20-metre (65ft) replica cost 3.7m Australian dollars (1.5m) to build. Her hull is made from European oak from Latvia, her sails and rigging are all natural flax and hemp.

She sailed for the first time in 1999 and has already completed two successful voyages - one retracing the Duyfken's journey from Australia to the Spice Islands of Indonesia, and another following the route back from Australia to the Netherlands.

The latest venture is part of the Dutch and Australian celebrations marking the events of 1606.

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