For many years Leeman was a quiet fishing village but with the opening of the Indian Ocean Drive it has started to see
Many miners working at Eneabba commute to and from Leeman as it is seen as a more attractive
place to live.
Offshore islands are home to the largest population of Australian Sea Lions in W.A. They are an endangered species and all
breeding areas have visitor restrictions to ensure these animals remain relatively undisturbed.
Although the town was originally based around the fishing industry, tourism is now becoming an important source of revenue.
Activities centre around the coast with swimming, fishing, boating and just relaxing featuring high on the list of things to do.
Four wheel drive tracks are popular and during wildflower season the bush comes alive with colour.
Leeman is named after Abraham Leeman van Santwits, who served as navigator aboard the ship Waeckende Boey (Watchful Boy), that was sent in
search of survivors from the wreck of the Vergulde Draeck (Gilt Dragon). The ship was carrying 8 chests of silver and 78,600 guilders.
Leeman was a member of the crew of the Vergulde Draeck ** and had survived the wreck. The Captain - Pieter Albertsz - (with no doubt the Batavia
tragedy quite fresh in his mind) elected to stay on shore and sent Leeman with a boat crew north to Batavia to summon help.
Leeman made it safely to Java travelling 3000 kilometres in 40 days and returned with the second rescue attempt to help find the survivors (or more likely to
recover the treasure.)
Initially (1656) the Witte Valk (White Hawk) and the Gooede Hoop (Good Hope) attempted to find the wreck (11 men were lost during
this rescue attempt) and it was not until 14 months later (1658) that the Waeckende Boey was sent on a second attempt to locate the Vergulde Draeck.
Leeman had been in charge of a landing party which had searched the shores for signs of survivors. One evening, with a storm looming, he had been ordered by
his captain to head to the shore. Leeman and his 13 crew were caught in the storm and found themselves unable to land or return to the Waeckende Boey.
They drifted north until they crashed into rocks and coral on Fisherman Island midway between the current sites of Leeman and Jurien Bay.
They managed to survive on seals and seabirds until their boat was repaired.
Once the boat was made seaworthy they headed south searching for the Waeckende Boey. They spent a night on Lancelin Island (just off the coast
from the modern day site of Lancelin) but did not sight the boat. Despairing of ever being found they started to sail north and landed on the Green Islets
south of Cervantes. From here they sighted the vessel and duly lit fires which were acknowledged by a cannon blast from the ship.
However, the seas were still rough and, to the horror of Leeman and his men, the Waeckende Boey proceeded to sail north leaving them marooned.
Captain Volkersen's log describes the situation:
'Since the wind was rising from the south and we had neither boat nor schuyt in order to investigate, and as we didn't find a convenient anchorage but
only sharp coral, we therefore did not drop anchor but hove to under small sail and waited for the day.'
By dawn the ship would have been many miles north of the island. It was decided to continue north to Batavia instead of going back to rescue the stranded men.
Leeman made his own comments on the situation:
'I climbed on the rocks and looked out to sea, praying to God with weeping eyes for help and succour, not knowing what I should do. I stayed alone most of
the time in my misery. Then I descended again to the men and gave orders for seal skins to be kept and dried. as we might happen to need them.'
Leeman refused to accept the impossibility of his situation and, after killing a number of seals and doing his best to collect adequate provisions, he sailed north in
a small boat for the second time, eventually reaching Batavia. Along the way 3 men died of thirst and 7 more were lost when they went ashore on the south coast
of Java and refused to return to the boat standing off shore.
The small boat was wrecked after Leeman had found water and was returning for those who stayed on shore. The remaining men were now facing a walk of
some 700 miles to Batavia across mountainous jungle covered land. An encounter with a large tiger convinced the men to stay together. They had been
walking for about two months when they met some villagers and after some time taken to a larger town where they were questioned by the local ruler.
Finally after some negotiation Leeman and his remaining three crewmen were repatriated with their fellow countrymen. Only 4 of the original 14 men survived
to reach Batavia 4 months after the initial wrecking of their boat.
Despite some adverse comments on his actions, there was no chance for Volkersen to receive his much deserved punishment as he died shortly before Leeman
arrived back in Batavia. (Perhaps that was punishment enough.)
It is most appropriate that the town of Leeman is named after this remarkable and resourceful sailor and navigator. Perhaps also appropriately a sea search
and rescue base is located in the town.
Originally known as Snag Island, the town of Leeman was gazetted in 1961. (One source says 1962 but the earlier date appears to be correct.).
** Leeman's presence on the Vergulde Draeck has only been mentioned in one source. Other accounts we have read do not mention this so it is not, as yet, confirmed.
Note: Leeman was actually from the English south coast port of Sandwich in Kent. His parents had probably moved there from Europe to escape the religious troubles
that were prevalent at the time.
TALL TALES AND TRUE
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Dynamite Bay, Pebble Beach, South Bay, Fisherman's Islands, Leeman lookout, Salt lakes, War memorial.
BUILDINGS OF NOTE
State : Moore
Federal : Durack
Postcode : 6514
Local Government : Shire of Coorow
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