Why is there a gap of about 130 years between Abel Tasman's voyage to Australia and New Zealand and James Cook's voyage to that region, when the exploration by north Europeans seems to have stopped?
The area was considered uninteresting. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century exploration for the sake of exploration was rare, that was more something for the late nineteenth century. Instead, areas were explored for financial reasons - to get areas to trade with, lands to conquer, trade routes to travel. Australia was mostly known for its western coast, which is mostly desert and thus was not considered interesting. New Zealand was simply far away from everywhere.
Having said that, the 130 year period was not completely devoid of exploration either, at least not in Australia. Here is a timeline of the most important voyages in this period:
- Abel Tasman (1642–1643): circumnavigates Australia without seeing it, discovering Tasmania, New Zealand and Fiji
- Abel Tasman (1644): maps the south coast of New Guinea, misses Strait Torres and goes on to map the whole of the north coast of Australia
- William Dampier (1688): lands on the north coast of Australia
- Willem de Vlamingh (1696–1697): maps the west coast of Australia
- William Dampier (1699–1701): lands in Shark Bay, first scientific exploration of Australia
- Louis Antoine de Bougainville (1763–1769): circumnavigates the globe; finds waves that seem to signify he is near land, it is now known that what he actually (almost) found is the Great Barrier Reef
- James Cook (1768–1771): circumnavigats New Zealand, discovers the straight between north and south island, discovers and explores Australia's east coast, rediscovers Strait Torres