02 July 2011

De Oosterland

Model of De Oosterland (The Model Shipyard)
The Oosterland (also known as “De Oosterlandt”) was a vessel of 1123 tons and was 160 feet long and 39 feet wide. It was built in 1685 at the Zeeland Yard, in Middelburg, for Amsterdam Chamber of the Dutch East India Company. It was owned and operated by the Dutch VOC company until it sank off the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa in 1697.

She set off for Asia for the first time in November 1685. Bad weather forced her return after only a fortnight, and it was to be February 1686 before she sailed again, eventually arriving in Batavia in five months later. She left for home at the end of that year, and stopped off at the Cape in March of 1687, loaded with cargo including spices as pepper, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and mace.

The Oosterland's second voyage, a very successful voyage of only 2 months and 10 days, from the Netherlands brought her back to the Cape in July 1688. Most voyages from the Netherlands took between 4 and 6 months! This time she carried refugees from France among her 33 passengers, including some Huguenot families who were to become significant in South Africa's later history.

Sarah Avicé
Châteaudun, Orléanais
Jean Cloudon
Condé-en-Brie, Champagne
Jean Du Bus
Marck, Picardie, Flanders
Jean Imbert
Nimes, Languedoc
Jacques Nourtier
Saint-Blaise, Picardie
Jean Nourtier
Saint-Blaise, Picardie
Jean Parisel
Villiers-le-Bel, Ile-de-France
Jacques Therond
Nimes, Languedoc
Pieter le Clerq
Serooskerk, Zeeland
Sara Cochet (wife)
Walcheren, Oost-Souberg
Abraham Zeeland (child 1)
Joost le Clerq (child 2)
Jeanne le Clerq (child 3)
Jacques De Savoye
Aeth, Hainaut
Marie Madeleine le Clerq (wife)
Antionette Carnoy (mother-in-law)
Tournai, Flanders
Marguérite-Thérèse (child 1) 17 years old
Barbe-Thérèse (child 2) 15 years old
Jacques (child 3) 9 months old
Jean Prieur Du Plessis
Poitiers, Poitou
Madeleine Menanteau (wife)
Poitiers, Poitou
Charles (child 1) born at sea
Daniel Nourtier
Saint-Blaise, Picardie
Marie Vitu (wife)
Guines, Picardie
Isaac Taillefert
Chateau Thierry, Champagne
Susanne Briet (wife)
Monneaux, Brie, Champagne
Elisabeth (child 1) 14 years old
Jean (child 2) 12 years old
Isaac (child 3) 7 years old
Pierre (child 4) 5 years old
Suzanne (child 5) 2 years old
Marie (child 6) 1 years old

For six months the ship traded between the VOC's stations in Asia, before returning home in August 1689. Her third trip, undertaken between February 1691 and October 1693, followed a similar pattern.

In July 1694, by now ten years old, the Oosterland left Holland again, this time as one of a fleet of 21 ships. After over a year of trading around Asia, she left Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in February 1697 with a cargo which included diamonds, and again set sail for home, this time in company with four other ships. Eleven people died aboard the Oosterland during her three month voyage to the Cape. It is possible that the quality of the drinking water caused not only these deaths, but also of the illness that struck 35 others of her complement. Having arrived once more at the Cape, in early May, the Oosterland and her companions waited for another dozen ships from Batavia to join them for the voyage home.

On 23 May 1697, a strong north-westerly gale blew up in Table Bay. One ship broke her anchor cables, those of another had to be cut, and the Oosterland was rammed and damaged by her drifting companions. On the next day, when the wind changed, the Oosterland went adrift, and this time hit the sea-bed near the mouth of the Salt River. As soon as she touched bottom, her main mast broke, and the hull began to break up. Of the more than three hundred people on board, only two survived.

Cape of Good Hope
17/05/1686 - 08/06/1686
Karel de Marville
20/03/1687 - 20/04/1687
25/04/1688 - 15/05/1688
Aamoud Scheiteruit
17/03/1689 - 17/04/1689
Aarnoud Scheiteruit
17/06/1691 - 20/07/1691
Aarnoud Scheiteruit
20/05/1693 - 12/06/1693
Pieter van Ede
31/12/1694 - 03/03/1695

All but the last voyage saw the vessel’s port of origin as Zeeland, the last port of origin was Amsterdam to which the vessel never returned.

The wreck of the Oosterland was discovered in 1988 by divers Graham Raynor, Michael Barchard and Christopher Byrnes. They immediately realised the significance of what they had found, and cntacted Bruno Werz, the Maritime Archaeologist based at the University of Cape Town. When the divers showed him photographs of two bronze cannon, found lying on the seabed, he identified them as having once belonged to the Dutch East India Company, and the National Monuments Council were then also informed of the find.

The wreck lay in only 6m of water, a few hundred metres from the entrance of the Milnerton Lagoon, where a combination of strong winds and currents, cold water temperatures and bad visibility, made diving very difficult.

The Oosterland excavation was notable because it was the first proper "maritime archaeology" project carried out in South African waters. The justification for "doing archaeology" lies in its ability to provide information that is not available in the documentary record. In the case of a shipwreck, such as the Oosterland, information can be gathered about what goods were carried on the ships, both as cargo and as personal effects, and also can be seen how they were packed. The complement of crew and passengers had to be self sufficient in both skills and equipment, due to the long periods of time spent at sea. Archaeology can help to learn about the social and technological aspects of this self-sufficiency.

Bruijn, J.R., Gaastra, F.S., Schöffer, I. Dutch-Asiatic Shipping In The 17th and 18th Centuries (3 Vols). The Hague, 1979, 1987
Turner, Malcom. Shipwrecks & Salvage in South Africa, 1505 to the present. Cape Town, 1988
The Huguenots Story (from France to South Africa) By Leon Coetzee and Frans Jordaan

1 comment:

  1. The vessel belonged to the Chamber of Zeeland. Captain Carel van Marseveen. It left Middelburg on 29 January 1688, and Goeree on 3 February 1688 and arrived at the Cape on 26 April, 1688.