The Hollandia
1743

 

I. Ship Construction and Cargo

II. Departure and Sinking

III. 18th Century Recovery Attempt

IV. 1971 Discovery

V. Coins of Hollandia


Ship Construction and Cargo
The Hollandia was a 150 ft. long, 700-ton ton “retour ship”, a heavily armed, well-manned merchant ship of the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (“VOC” also known as the Dutch East India Company). The ship was specifically designed for the long roundtrip voyage from the Netherlands to the East Indies. The exact armament of the Hollandia is not known, but it is certain there were are least 40 guns or cannons. Her most important cargo was silver plate, amounting to 129,700 guilders in silver, Spanish Colonial and Dutch coins, as documented in the VOC account books.


Departure and Sinking
On 3 July 1743, the Hollandia set off on her maiden voyage from Texel in the Netherlands. She sank on 13 July 1743. It is known from correspondence that she was blown off course and ended up northwest of the Isles of Scilly near England. A statement in the “Survey of the Ancient and Present State of the Scilly Isles” (Sherbourne 1794) says she struck upon Gunner Rock and sank in about 22 fathoms (approximately 130 feet) depth of water. Guns were fired as a distress signal and many bodies were later found floating or on the shores of St. Mary’s and other islands. There were no survivors.

18th Century Recovery Attempt
The silver plate onboard was the property of the VOC and was to be used for trade in the Far East. For this reason, within two months of her sinking, the Amsterdam Chamber of the VOC sent a diver to locate and attempt to salvage the silver treasure. Unfortunately, 18th century diving equipment was only good to about 12 fathoms, and although the diver may have located the wreck, salvage would have been impossible.

1971 Discovery
In 1967, Rex Cowan began his search for the Hollandia. Years of research and planning resulted in two years of diving and searching the area around Gunner Rock. A proton magnetometer (which measures the intensity of the earth’s magnetic field and variations caused by ferrous materials) was used in the search. Iron cannon and anchors were detected by the magnetometer, allowing Rex Cowan’s team to visually locate the wreck in September 1971. Thousands of coins have been recovered, along with a large quantity of artifacts and various brass armaments.

Coins of Hollandia
The majority of silver coin recovered from the Hollandia consist of Spanish eight reales (also known as “pieces of eight”) minted in the Americas (Mexico mint). They were produced on the screw press and are also known as “Pillar Dollars”. The silver content of these coins was very high, which made them very desirable to the Far East traders. The purity of these silver coins was confirmed when they were compared with other New World coins and Dutch coinage found in the same underwater environment.
Another type of coin recovered from the Hollandia is the ducaton. The silver for these coins was often mined in Eastern European countries and then minted in various provinces of the Spanish Netherlands and United Provinces. The larger coins of the Netherlands were popular with merchants involved in the East Indies trade.

 ©2008 BBWS, Inc.

Slot Ter Hooge
(Castle Of Hooge)
1724

I. Cargo

II. Sinking

III. 18th Century Salvage

IV. 20th Century Map Discovery

V. Pre-Recovery Government Relations

VI. 1975 Recovery

Cargo
She carried chests of silver bars, Spanish “pieces of eight” and Dutch coins.

Sinking
In 1724 Slot ter Hooge set sail from the Netherlands bound for Batavia. As she neared Portugal a storm developed, driving the ship toward the Madeira Islands. Unable to change course, Slot ter Hooge smashed into the rocks off Porto Santo. She sank quickly and only 33 of the 254 passengers and crew survived.
 
18th Century Salvage
The Dutch East India Company hoped to salvage most of her cargo since the ship sank in relatively shallow water (60-72 feet). They engaged famous English salvor John Lethbridge. Ten years earlier, Lethbridge had developed a working diving bell which looked like an elongated wooden barrel that was large enough to hold a man. Lethbridge’s efforts proved to be very successful. In 1725, the very first dive yielded 349 of the 1,500 silver bars, a number of Spanish and Dutch silver coins and two cannon. Lethbridge spent the next five years salvaging Slot ter Hooge and, in the end, only about 250 silver bars and an unknown number of coins remained unaccounted for.
 
20th Century Map Discovery
The search for these remaining items was renewed 250 years later by Robert Stenuit, a well-known Belgian diver. Stenuit had been interested in salvaging Slot ter Hooge for years, but had been unable to determine the exact location of the wreckage. It was pure coincidence that provided him with the information he needed. During a visit with fellow salvager, Rex Cowan, he mentioned his interest in Slot ter Hooge. Cowan showed him a document he had obtained from an 1880 historical society meeting, which described a silver tankard that had two interesting pictures engraved on it. The tankard itself no longer existed, but a picture of the engravings was all that Stenuit needed. The first engraving showed a device suspended from a boat, which Stenuit immediately recognized as Lethbridge’s diving bell. The second engraving outlined an island with the words “Porto Santo Island, Lat. 33 N. Long. 5.” and a ship in a northern bay of the island. The tankard also showed Lethbridge’s personal monogram.
 
Pre-Recovery Government Relations
Stenuit began preparing for the search and immediately met with the Dutch government, who agreed to release any claims against the treasure in return for 25% of any salvage proceeds. He then met with the Portuguese government and obtained exclusive license to recover and export any treasure found.
 
1975 Recovery
With a team of four divers, Stenuit arrived in Porto Santo in May 1975. Setting out in a rubber diving boat, and following the directions on the tankard, they found themselves directly over the iron anchor of Slot ter Hooge. Stenuit’s search revealed debris from the wreck, cannon, cannon balls, wine bottles, bricks (used as ballast on the trip and as building supplies upon arrival). The most significant find that day was a small silver coin with the imprint “ZEE-LAN-DIA and the date “1724”. Zeelandia was the province member group in the Dutch East India Company which had owned Slot ter Hooge. This proved that Stenuit had located the wreck of Slot ter Hooge.
 
By the time Stenuit's recovery efforts were complete he had recovered an incredible collection of artifacts, silver bars and silver coins (seven monarchs from the 17th and 18th century are represented in the coin collection). This expedition was partially funded by the National Geographic Society and is documented in the August 1975 issue.
 
©2006 BBWS, Inc.

 

Reijgersdaal
1747

I. Ship Description and Cargo

II. Voyage, Scurvy and Sinking

III. Valuable Wreck Debris

IV. 1979 Discovery

Ship Description and Cargo
The Reijgersdaal or Reygersdahl (pronounced REE-jerz-doll) was an 850-ton merchant ship built in 1738 for the Dutch East India Company. On May 31, 1747 the Reijgersdaal left Texel (Netherlands) with 297 people on board. Her cargo consisted of eight chests of silver pillar dollars (approximately 30,000 coins) from the Mexico mint and lead bars. Pillar dollars were used throughout the Dutch East India Company’s empire, and especially in the Indonesian spice trade.

Voyage, Scurvy and Sinking
In order to reach Indonesia, the Reijgersdaal had to round southern Africa. After several months at sea, she reached Dassen Island on the west coast of Africa in October 1747. She lost 125 men to scurvy en route. Unable to anchor because of bad weather, a boat was lowered so that fresh food could be retrieved from the island. The Reijgersdaal was finally able to anchor on the north side of Robben Island in Table Bay, and remained there until the next day because much of the surviving crew had scurvy. A strong wind prevented the ship from reaching anchorage in Table Bay, so it was decided to weigh anchor and try to return to Dassen Island, but the ship struck a reef during the attempt. About 15 men climbed into a boat to try to take a line ashore, but the ship was destroyed before they reached the shore. The entire crew that remained on board perished in the wreck.

Valuable Wreck Debris
Three days after the Reijgersdaal sank, one of the money chests was found on the beach with approximately 3,600 silver coins inside.

1979 Discovery
In 1979, the wreck of the Reijgersdaal was discovered by Brian Clarke and Tubby Gericke. They were unable to find any treasure, but did recover six bronze cannons and many lead bars. The next salvors, Jimmy Rawe and Arthur Ridge, were more successful. They recovered approximately 6,800 silver pillar dollars dating from 1732 to 1744. The coins had never entered circulation and were very well preserved considering they were underwater for over 230 years.
 
©2008 BBWS, Inc.

Rooswijk
1739

I. Ship Description and Cargo

II. Purpose of Voyage

III. Preparation for Voyage

IV. Departure and Sinking With All Hands

V. Aftermath of the Wreck

VI. 2004 Recovery

Ship Description and Cargo
The Rooswijk was a 145 ft. 850 ton retour ship owned by the Dutch East India Company (also known as the VOC).

Purpose of Voyage
The main purpose of the voyage was to purchase items such as spices, textiles, porcelain, pepper and tea. These commodities made the Dutch East India Company the most powerful corporation in the 17th century.

Preparation for Voyage
In December 1739, in the roads off the Northern Dutch Islands of Texel, the Rooswijk began preparations for her second voyage to the Indies by taking on cargo, crew and passengers. Treasure was loaded under the careful supervision of accountants and officials of the Dutch East India Company. There were ten chests containing silver coins (primarily minted in Mexico between 1720 and 1738) and twenty chests containing 1,000 silver bars. Each chest, wrapped in canvas and tied with rope, was then taken to the Captain’s cabin where it was sealed with red wax and signed off the accountants’ ledgers.
 
Departure and Sinking With All Hands
On December 18, 1739, Captain Daniel Ronzieres set sail for Batavia, along with three other ships in what was known as the Christmas Fleet. The voyage would not last long. Just one day after leaving Texel, the Rooswijk was caught in a heavy storm. The ship struck the Goodwin Sands off the southeast coast of England. The Goodwin Sands was also known as “the ship-swallower” because of its shifting sands and strong currents. The weather was so bad that boatmen from the towns of Deal and Ramsgate (experts in salvage and rescue) were unable to launch their boats to look for survivors or cargo. There were no survivors.

Aftermath of the Wreck
Only a small amount of cargo, including a box containing documents identifying the ship as the Rooswijk, washed up on shore.  Any chance of salvage was impossible because of continued bad weather.
The loss of the Rooswijk was a financial disaster for the Dutch East India Company. A replacement ship and treasure had to be sent because the Company could not afford to lose any trading profit they would make on the goods purchased in the Indies. Even though a reward was offered for any salvage from the wreck that was surrendered, little was ever recovered. The Rooswijk and its treasure would remain under several feet of sand for 265 years.

2004 Recovery
In 2004, Ken Welling found evidence of shipwreck debris while diving on the Goodwin Sands. Over the next few months he recovered 535 silver bars, two complete chests and a small number of artifacts. A carbine bearing the arms of the city of Amsterdam and a pillar dollar dated 1735 convinced him he had located the wreck of the Rooswijk. By 2005, the recovery became an archeological “rescue” and all items were surveyed and catalogued for future research.
 
©2007 BBWS, Inc.

 

The Maravillas
1656


I. Sinking of the Capitana and Cargo Recovery

II. Capitana’s Treasure Transferred to Las Maravillas

III. Departure and Sinking

IV. 17th Century Salvage Attempts

V. 20th Century Salvage Attempts

Sinking of the Capitana and Cargo Recovery
The story of the Nuestra Senora de Las Maravillas (the “Maravillas”) actually began with a Spanish galleon called the Capitana. The Capitana set sail from South America in October 1654 headed for the Pacific coast of Panama. It carried a treasure of freshly minted gold escudos, silver pieces of eight, chalices of gold and silver, and crosses encrusted with emeralds. The main cargo, however, was a 400-pound, solid-gold statue of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus commissioned by King Philip IV of Spain. He believed he could buy his way into heaven by presenting the gold statue to the mother church in Spain. Unfortunately, the Capitana sank eight days later in a storm off the coast of Ecuador. The treasure lay in 40 feet of water and King Philip was adamant that it be recovered no matter what the cost. Slaves and divers recovered most of the treasure, including the solid-gold statue.

Capitana’s Treasure Transferred to Las Maravillas
The treasure recovered from the Capitana was shipped to Havana, where a larger fleet was preparing to set sail for Spain. To ensure that nothing would go wrong this time, King Philip had the treasure loaded on the 650-ton Maravillas (Nuestra Senora de Las Maravillas translates to Our Lady of Miracles)
 
Departure and Sinking
The Maravillas was blessed by the Archbishop of Havana and set sail for Spain on New Year’s Day, 1656 along with 22 armed warships. The chief navigator was sure they had cleared the sand shoals and coral reefs of the Bahamas when all of a sudden; a reef appeared on the horizon. A cannon was fired to warn the rest of the fleet to alter their course. Not all the ships responded to the warning and as the Maravillas came about, she was rammed head-on by a smaller ship. Water began pouring into the Maravillas’ hold and the masts of the two vessels became tangled. As the crews worked frantically to free the rigging, water continued to flood the Maravillas and she finally settled in 30 feet of water. The crew knew the treasure had to be saved. As plans were made to recover the treasure, a storm moved in and within hours the Maravillas disappeared into the sea. Only 45 of the crew survived and the king’s treasure was lost again. King Philip IV died in 1665 without ever recovering the solid-gold statue.

17th Century Salvage Attempts
The Spanish spent the next 40 years attempting to recover the treasure with little success.
 
20th Century Salvage Attempts
During the last century, the Maravillas shipwreck has been salvaged twice – first in the 1970’s and again in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. The first salvage recovered a few gold escudos from the Santa Fe de Bogota mint, silver cobs, and countermarked Potosi coinage. The second salvage yielded over 70 gold escudos from the Santa Fe de Bogota mint, silver cobs from Potosi and Mexico, and several important artifacts. Some believe the bulk of the treasure (over 5 million pesos) remains to be found.
 
©2008 BBWS, Inc.

 

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