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Over a thousand Dutch shipwrecks discovered worldwide

Famous stories and legends about lost Dutch ships have been told for hundreds of years. Not surprising if you know the history of the V.O.C. a little. Some stories appeal more to the imagination than others. Thus, the story of the Lutine and its never-found treasure of gold holds many in its grip. But how many ships have sunk, where and what exactly happened. We didn’t know, until now.

Political attention for Dutch underwater heritage

In 2016, for the first time, political attention was paid to the Dutch heritage under water. It then came to light that there was not much left of the three shipwrecks in the Java Sea. These Dutch warships were wrecked during the Battle of the Java Sea in 1942. They appear to have been recovered illegally. This led people to wonder whether more shipwrecks, which were officially still missing, had ‘disappeared’ in this way?

Painting commemorating the many victims of the Battle of the Java Sea

Why are so many shipwrecks illegally salvaged?

Illegal recovery of sunken ships is still happening on a large scale worldwide. A shipwreck not only appeals to the imagination, but there is often also a lot to take in. Ten years ago, for example, crates full of age-old Champagne turned up from a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea. The bottles date from 1772 and turned out to be still drinkable.

But also the many shipwrecks in the Wadden Sea are dived by hundreds of enthusiasts every year. Even if there are no fancy goods to be had, the iron and other materials of a shipwreck are worth a lot of money.

Global piracy means many wrecks remain undiscovered

In many third world countries around the world’s seas, piracy is still widespread. The international rules on shipwrecks are not followed very closely there. It is more a matter of showing up and selling what there is to sell. This ensures that there is a large illegal trade in iron. This makes it difficult to locate and possibly protect or officially salvage ships.

Not only is it a shame that a shipwreck is illegally dismantled and salvaged. It is also a sensitive issue in the case of the warships in the Java Sea. They are also war graves. More than 900 sailors went down with the ships during the Battle of the Java Sea. When this came to light, the Lower House decided to commission the survey.

The importance of charting Dutch shipwrecks

Now that the researchers have mapped out how many shipwrecks there are in the waters, the Netherlands can look at how they can be protected. More than 1500 Dutch shipwrecks, in all corners of the seven seas. After all, that is worthy of investigation.

Completely intact seventeenth-century Dutch flute ship discovered in Gulf of Finland

Items found in the shipwrecks show what people used to do. The materials found in the cargo holds of shipwrecks reveal what the merchants traded in the 17th century. Even today, it is possible to precisely determine from which parts of the world certain materials came and where they were going. The wrecks that have been mapped can be viewed online.

The wrecks that have been mapped can be viewed online.

Have you always wanted to know what it is like on a historic sailing ship? Then get in touch with us! Who knows, you might soon be sailing along on a tour of the famous Dutch V.O.C. towns around the IJsselmeer. Are you fascinated by the mystery of the Lutine and the other many shipwrecks around Texel? Then we will be happy to take you on a discovery tour ofthe Wadden Sea and to the most beautiful Wadden Islands. They are full of sagas, myths and unearthed treasures from the past.

This post is also available in: Dutch German