Vergulde Draeck (Gilded Dragon) - 1656

voc shipwrecks | vergulde draeck | batavia | zuytdorp | zeewijk

"Wednesday June 7, 1656. Today, shortly after midday, the schuyt of the jacht Draeck arrived after one month wandering around with the understeersman and six sailors. They brought the sorrowful news that the abovementioned fine jacht had run aground on the coast of the Southland on 28 April during the night, in the beginning of the morning watch, on a reef […]" (Resolutions of meeting in the castle of Batavia in Green 1977:48)

History
The Vergulde Draeck (VOC Chamber Amsterdam) left the port of Texel, Holland on 4 October 1655 in a fleet of other VOC ships. She carried a crew of about 193 men under Master Pieter Albertsz as well as a cargo of trade goods and eight chests of silver coins. In April 1656 she would meet her destiny on the shores of Western Australia.

When the vessel crashed onto the reef it broke up immediately. Only 75 survivors including Albertsz and the Understeersman Leeman managed to reach the shore in a schuyt (longboat). The only things they could salvage were a few provisions washed onto the beach. Albertsz decided to dispatch a party of six men with the Understeerman in the small rowing boat to fetch help in Batavia.

In 1658 a rescue attempt was undertaken: two ships, the Wackende Boey and Emeloort, were equipped at Batavia with provisions for six months and strict instructions to search for the Vergulde Draeck survivors, salvage the wreck if possible but also to chart the coast and investigate any trading opportunities. They were unsuccessful, although one ship managed to locate pieces of wreckage from the Vergulde Draeck.

By a cruel stroke of fate the Wackende Boey's boat and its 14 crew was left behind on a reef island. Among them was Abraham Leeman, the Vergulde Draeck's former Understeerman stranded for the second time. He was forced to make the journey again in a small vessel, enduring great hardship. 185 days after being abandoned Leeman and four men arrived in Batavia on 23 September 1658.

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Archaeology
The wreck of the Vergulde Draeck lies scattered over an area of 40m by 50m on a reef 5.6 km from shore and mid-way between today's towns of Seabird and Ledge Point in Western Australia.

The remains of the Vergulde Draeck were discovered in 1963 by spear-fishing skindivers. The limestone reef the shipwreck is resting on is made up of a profusion of solution holes, caves, tunnels, and gullies. It is extremely difficult to tell the wreck material apart from the bedrock except on the sandy floors of the caves. This situation was compounded by the effects of the explosives looters used to free underwater wreckage, as well as the occasional severe storms.

ballast bricksBetween 1972 and 1983 Jeremy Green and other staff from the Western Australian Museum retrieved many artefacts from the wreck site. The Vergulde Draeck ANCODS collection includes large numbers of ballast bricks, clay pipes, stoneware, wooden and metal fragments as well as elephant tusks, leather shoes and coins. Eight hundred of these coins are in the custody of the Money Museum in Utrecht.

The only evidence to the possible fate of the Vergulde Draeck survivors surfaced in 1931, when a boy found 40 Japanese and Netherlands silver coins (dating from 1619 to 1655) in sand hills north of Cape Leschenault.

The wreck of the Vergulde Draeck lies scattered over an area of 40m by 50m on a reef 5.6 km from shore and mid-way between today's towns of Seabird and Ledge Point in Western Australia.

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References

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vergulde draeck

 

 

 

Vergulde Draeck
images courtesy
WA Maritime Museum

coins and bottle
voc shipwrecks | vergulde draeck | batavia | zuytdorp | zeewijk