Slot Ter Hooge
(Castle Of Hooge)

I. Cargo

II. Sinking

III. 18th Century Salvage

IV. 20th Century Map Discovery

V. Pre-Recovery Government Relations

VI. 1975 Recovery

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

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.


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