And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

25 November

1642
Abel Janszoon Tasman,
sailor and explorer.

‘In the morning we had a calm; we floated the white flag and pendant from our stern, upon which the officers of the Zeehaan with their steersmen came on board of us; we then convened the Ship’s council and resolved together upon what may in extenso be seen from today’s resolution to which we beg leave to refer. Towards noon the wind turned to the south-east and afterwards to the south-south-east and the south, upon which we made for the shore; at about 5 o’clock in the evening we got near the coast; three miles off shore we sounded in 60 fathom coral bottom; one mile off the coast we had clean, fine, white sand; we found this coast to bear south by east and north by west; it was a level coast, our ship being 42° 30' South Latitude, and average Longitude 163° 50'. We then put off from shore again, the wind turning to the south-south-east with a top-gallant gale. If you came from the west and find your needle to show 4° north-westerly variation you had better look out for land, seeing that the variation is very abruptly decreasing here. If you should happen to be overtaken by rough weather from the westward you had best heave to and not run on. Near the coast here the needle points due north. We took the average of our several longitudes and found this land to be in 163° 50' Longitude.

This land being the first land we have met with in the South Sea and not known to any European nation we have conferred on it the name of Anthoony Van Diemenslandt in honour of the Honourable Governor-General, our illustrious master, who sent us to make this discovery; the islands circumjacent, so far as known to us, we have named after the Honourable Councillors of India, as may be seen from the little chart which has been made of them.’

The discovery of Tasmania

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1855
Nassau William Senior,
lawyer and economist

‘We started at six this morning for the Pyramids. We left our boat and mounted asses at the dirty town of Geezeh, As the inundation has not sufficiently subsided to enable us to take the direct road, we had to travel along a dike, whose windings made the distance amount to 12 miles instead of 6. On one side of us was a green plain of young crops, on the other side was water, or land, just left by it, and covered with black mud. We saw the process of cultivation: one man was throwing sand upon the mud; another, with a flat piece of wood at the end of a pole, was beating it down into the mud, and so mixing it with the soil: as far as the inundation extends this supplies the place of sowing, ploughing and harrowing.

About a mile from the end of the inundation the dike had given way, and the water was flowing in two or three black-looking streams. Forty or fifty half-naked men collected round us, hoisted us, two to each person, by putting their arms round our legs, carried us over, and, what was more difficult, pushed and pulled over our asses.

After a ride of two hours and a half we reached the sandy slope, about a mile within the desert, leading to the rocky plateau on which the Pyramids stand, that of Cheops, the largest, being nearest to the Nile. We had brought no lights with us, and the Bedouins, who had collected on our arrival, had only about an inch of taper. We were unable, therefore, to enter. Some of the party, each assisted by two Bedouins, scrambled to the top. I was not one of them. The day was hot and hazy, and I was not inclined to take half an hour’s violent exercise in the sun, to be rewarded by a prospect much inferior to that from the terrace of the Citadel.

The Pyramids do not gain by a near approach. Seen from Cairo, or even from the distance of a mile or two, their noble proportions appear; when you are under them, they look like fantastically formed rocky hills.’

Senior’s conversations

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1858
Christian Gottlieb Ferdinand Ritter von Hochstetter,
geologist

‘At 6 o’clock in the evening a dinner was given in the German Club by a number of Germans in honour of the presence of an Imperial Austrian warship. The great dining-room was very elegant and decorated in keeping with the occasion. Perhaps about 40 persons took their seats. The customary toasts concluded proceedings: - the Queen! - The Emperor of Austria! - the members of the Austrian Imperial family! To which the Commodore responded with a toast to Prince Albert. Then: - to the Commodore and the officers of the Novara - responded to by the Commodore with a very pretty toast - to the Germans in Australia, responded to - German Science! - to which I replied with a toast to the unity, might and greatness of our common Fatherland - in which I endeavoured to stress that in recent years no German state had, by fusing material and national economic interests, contributed so much to German unity as the new regenerated Austria! Dr. Hochstetter spoke a few very moving words in memory of Leichhardt [a Prussian explorer who had disappeared earlier that year while in northern Australia, and whose expedition inspired Patrick White’s novel Voss], whereupon all those present rose in silence from their seats. This was followed by toasts to Alexander von Humboldt, Sir William Denison, etc. The festivities closed at 11 p.m.’

The father of NZ geology

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1915
Hugo Ball,
artist

‘Each word is a wish or a curse. One must be careful not to make words once one has acknowledged the power of the living word.

The artist’s secret lies in fear and awe. Our times have turned them into terror and dismay.

People who live rashly and precipitately easily lose control over their impressions and are prey to unconscious emotions and motives. The activity of any art (painting, writing, composing) will do them good, provided that they do not pursue any purpose in their subjects, but follow the course of a free, unfettered imagination. The independent process of fantasy never fails to bring to light again those things that have crossed the threshold of consciousness without analysis. In an age like ours, when people are assaulted daily by the most monstrous things without being able to keep account of their impressions, in such an age aesthetic production becomes a prescribed course. But all living art will be irrational, primitive, and complex; it will speak a secret language and leave behind documents not of edification but of paradox.’

A wish or a curse

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1924
Edward Weston,
photographer

‘I said to Tina, having noted several interesting items in a downtown bookstore, “Let us go on a book-hunting expedition, I am hungry for a new thrill.” We were successful in acquiring a number of additions to our library, mostly books reproducing the work of contemporary painters. Ferat, Grosz, Dérain, and a volume on African sculpture - what splendid things! - and how fine is Derain!

Now my orders are printed and the stage set for more sittings. It will take many orders to pay the expenses of our return trip.’

Lost behind my camera

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1941
Henry L Stimson,
politician

‘Then at 12 o’clock we went to the White House, where we were until nearly half past one. At the meeting were Hull, Knox, Marshall, Stark and myself. There the President [. . .] brought up entirely the relations with the Japanese. He brought up the event that we were likely to be attacked perhaps next Monday, for the Japanese are notorious for making an attack without warning, and the question was what should we do. The question was how much we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.’

Pearl Harbour diaries

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1990
Anthony Powell,
writer

‘I wrote to Mrs Thatcher expressing regret at her resignation, saying that at one of her dinner parties where I met her she had spoken of Dostoevsky’s The Possessed (in Russian The Devils), i.e. those that entered into the swine, which then rushed over the cliff. This seemed a perfect example of what had happened to her, the swine being her betrayers in the Tory Party.’

Speaking of The Possessed

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In general, these diary extracts are quoted as given in the published (book or online) source referred to in the reference articles. Each extract may be all, a large part of, or a small part of the complete entry for that day. I have tried to indicate where text has been removed from within a quote by the use of trailing dots in square bracket.

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