Starting on 19 January a team of Australian archaeologists will be researching a number of Dutch East India Company shipwrecks in the Indian Ocean near Christmas Island and the Cocos Islands. This project, which will focus specifically on locating the wreck of the VOC ship De Fortuyn, is being supported by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, the Dutch embassy in Canberra, and the Australian Silentworld Foundation.
Dutch and Australian archaeologists have been trying to locate the wreck of De Fortuyn for quite some time, and in this project the two countries will be combining forces. Martijn Manders, head of the Maritime Programme of the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency, says: “I am very excited that the researchers will now investigate the most likely location of De Fortuyn according to our historical research. Pablo Boorsma, a Master’s student of Maritime Archaeology at Leiden University, has done an amazing job of plotting the search zone. It’s now up to our Australian colleagues to do the fieldwork. Following this work, we will evaluate our progress and discuss our plans for the future, in the hope that we will locate the wreck before or during the Dirk Hartog commemorative year in 2016.”
Dirk Hartog commemorative year
The Fortuyn project is one of the activities taking place to commemorate the fact that Dirk Hartog was among the first Europeans to land in Western Australia nearly 400 years ago. This event will be commemorated in 2016 with a programme of activities to celebrate Dutch-Australian cultural heritage. Australia is one of the Cultural Heritage Agency’s partners in its Shared Cultural Heritage programme.
VOC ship De Fortuyn
The ship De Fortuyn was built by the Dutch East India Company in the early 18th century. She left the island of Texel on her maiden voyage on 27 September 1723. De Fortuyn was commanded by Pieter Westrik and had 225 men on board. The ship was armed with 36 cannons and 8 swivel guns. De Fortuyn set sail together with the East Indiamen De Hogenes and De Graveland to Batavia (today’s Jakarta) by way of the Cape of Good Hope, but the ship was lost. The Australian team will conduct targeted research along the coastline of the islands.
The Netherlands is very eager to preserve its overseas heritage. The Agency provides support to projects that focus on the international stewardship of Dutch maritime heritage worldwide. The Maritime Programme’s remit is to determine how the Agency, in cooperation with other countries, can acquire as much new knowledge as possible about Dutch overseas heritage. The ultimate goal is diligent stewardship of Dutch VOC, WIC, and Admiralty wrecks all over the world. Achieving this goal is only possible in cooperation with the heritage authorities in countries with wrecks in their territorial waters.