Divers find remains of 366-year-old Dutch wrecks

archive – Diving News

Divers find remains of 366-year-old Dutch wrecks

A dive-team has found remains of a fleet of 17th-century Dutch East India Company ships wrecked off south-east Sulawesi in Indonesia.

Arqueonautas Worldwide, a Portuguese maritime archaeology organisation, carried out an eight-day reconaissance expedition ending 6 May in collaboration with affiliate Maresearch Indonesia, the regional Bureau for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (BPCB Sulawesi), and Germany’s Association for Saving Underwater Cultural Heritage.

The Ternate Fleet of five ships was lost in 1650 while sailing from Batavia (now Jakarta) to the eastern Indonesian spice island of Ternate, carrying soldiers, many of them German, along with equipment and provisions. The vessels were the flagship Tijger, Bergen op Zoom, Luijpaert, Aechtekercke and De Joffer.

All five ships stranded on the reef of Sagori, a then-uncharted atoll west of Kabaena island. Efforts to refloat them failed, though over the next two months the 581 castaways salvaged much of the cargoes and even managed to construct a new vessel from parts of the old ones.

They also established diplomatic ties with the nearby Sultanate of Buton, that Arqueonautas says would shape regional politics for the next 300 years. A journal of the events found 10 years ago in Netherlands official archives led to the expedition.

Sagori was inhabited by a small group of Bajau, or sea-gypsies, and the wrecking was also notable in that the shipwrecked men, unusually for the time, seem to have co-existed amicably with them before their eventual rescue.

The Bajau, skilled freedivers, were assumed to have recovered remaining artefacts years ago. However, the international expedition team of seven, including its leader Dr Horst Liebner, German maritime archaeologist Dr Thomas Foerster and British photographer Immanuel Bryson-Haynes, found that Sagori’s modern inhabitants were able to lead them to two likely wreck dive-sites.

Scuba-diving, they found multiple cannonballs and ballast stones, embedded nails and what appeared to be a blade. It is thought that the main site surveyed was that of the largest vessel, the Tijger. Sagori’s inhabitants are understood to know of at least three further possible sites, and the archaeological campaign is set to continue next year.

19-May-16

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