The museum ship Amsterdam

Wednesday, 1 August 2018 - 01:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: Tall ships, Yacht of the Month
Reading Time:  5 minutes

© Malis

© Malis

The Amsterdam was an 18th-century cargo ship of the Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie; VOC). The ship started its maiden voyage from Texel to Batavia on 8 January 1749, but was wrecked in a storm on the English Channel on 26 January 1749. The shipwreck was discovered in 1969 in the bay of Bulverhythe, United Kingdom, and is sometimes visible during low tides. The wreck site is protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act since 1974.

The Amsterdam was an East Indiaman or “Transom return ship” (Dutch: spiegelretourschip) built for transport between the Dutch Republic and the settlements and strongholds of the Dutch East India Company in the East Indies. On an outward voyage these ships carried guns and bricks for the settlements and strongholds, and silver and golden coins to purchase Asian goods. On a return journey the ships carried the goods that were purchased, such as spices, fabrics, and china. In both directions the ships carried victuals, clothes, and tools for the sailors and soldiers on the ship. On an outward voyage of eight months, the ships were populated by around 240 men, and on a return journey by around 70. The Amsterdam was built in the shipyard for the Amsterdam chamber of the Dutch East India Company in Amsterdam. The ship was made of oak wood.

© Ymnes/cc-by-sa-3.0 Dutch National Maritime Museum of Amsterdam © C messier/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Eddo Hartmann - Het Scheepvaartmuseum/cc-by-3.0 Figurehead © McKarri/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Maksym Kozlenko/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Malis
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Dutch National Maritime Museum of Amsterdam © C messier/cc-by-sa-4.0
In 1969, the Amsterdam was discovered after being exposed by a low spring tide. It is the best-preserved VOC ship ever found. Archaeologist Peter Marsden did the first surveying of the wreck, and he advised further excavation. The wrecksite was designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act on 5 February 1974. The VOC Ship Amsterdam Foundation started researching the wreck, followed by major excavations in 1984, 1985 and 1986, during which huge numbers of artifacts were found. Although the wreck is submerged in the sand and mud of the beach (and is even visible at very low tides), much of the excavation was done by divers, for whom a small tower was constructed near the wreck. Additionally the wreck was surrounded by an iron girder frame. The archeological output was so dense that new ways of researching needed to be developed, all of which were needed to understand the technological, socio-economic and cultural features of the VOC. Some of the finds are on show at the Shipwreck Museum in Hastings, East Sussex, with the exception of the anchor, which is now on display as public art at St Katharine Docks in London. The wreck is protected and diving on it or removing timbers or any artefacts is forbidden. The ship may be visited as the timbers are exposed at very low tides in the sand just opposite the footbridge over the railway line at Bulverhythe.

A replica of the ship was built in Iroko wood by 400 volunteers using tools of the period, between 1985 and 1990 at Lelystad. It was floated to Amsterdam and is moored next to the Netherlands Maritime Museum, where it is open to visitors of the museum (which has now reopened after being closed for several years for renovations). As for the original ship, there had been hopes in the 1980s that the Dutch Government, which still owns it, might excavate the whole wreck and return it for restoration and display in Amsterdam, like the Regalskeppet Vasa in Sweden, or the Mary Rose in Portsmouth, but the funds were not forthcoming. Several decks and much of the bowsprit lie submerged in the mud and are in remarkably good condition, being naturally preserved by the mud, and much of the cargo is still aboard.

Read more on Dutch National Maritime Museum and Wikipedia Amsterdam.
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