The scene depicts the voyage of Abel Tasman in 1642, when he discovers New Zealand. Before this expedition the world map had a giant blank spot on the place where it now shows Australia and the south Pacific.
The Dutch East India Company VOC had gained a pretty dominant position in the East Indies, but they had no idea what lay south or east of Indonesia. Several ships had sighted Australian land and even shipwrecked there, but still virtually nothing was known about the mysterious Southland.
The VOC decided to send the experienced sailor Tasman to explore this vast area. He got command of two ships; the yacht ‘Heemskerck and the fluyt ‘Zeehaen’ The expedition first sailed to Mauritius near Africa, then set sail to the east. He missed Australia, but discovered Tasmania ,New Zealand, Fiji and number of Pacific Islands.
For the VOC, Tasman's explorations were a disappointment: he had neither found a promising area for trade nor a useful new shipping route. In the 1640’s the Dutch were already pretty occupied with their bases in North America, Brasil, Africa, India, and the Far East. New adventures in this remote region didn’t fit in the plans of the VOC. It would take another 130 years for another European explorer named James Cook would visit the region.