Greeted with a beautiful sunrise over flat calm water and a full moon still shining bright, fieldwork has continued. The last couple of days we have surveyed the south and west side of Christmas Island.
25 February – We spent the day on the water surveying with Azmi Yon, Renata de Jong and Rob Muller from Parks Australia. The weather was excellent and we managed to get near the coastline on some very weather dependent spots near South East Point and Egeria Point in the South West. Graeme continued assisting Robert in translating archival references to the wrecking of another Dutch vessel Vice Admiraal rijk (1852). The Vice Admiraal Rijk is reported to have wrecked on the south-west coast of Christmas Island, something we will be looking into over the coming two weeks. So suddenly we are not only looking for two (The Fortuyn as major object and the Aagtekerken as secondary) , but also this 19th century Dutch merchant ship.
Vice Admiraal Rijk
The Dutch bark ship Vice Admiraal Rijk was built in 1843 by the shipyard Gips in Dordrecht for the shipping company A. Ahlers from Amsterdam. It was on a voyage from Ramsgate to Batavia in 1852 when it struck on the south-west point of Christmas Island. The ship sank with all sails set. Four of the 20 men held onto the floating roof of a deck-house and drifted to the north-west point of the island. Attempting to land and scale the seafront cliffs one man was dragged back by a receding wave and drowned. So out of 20 people originally on board, only three survived the tragedy. They were rescued from the island after 56 days of survival. The project team have now recorded anomalies on south-west point and believe that it might be the wreck of the Vice Admiraal Rijk. This still has to be confirmed. We will know all about this soon.
26 February – Graeme and Andy went to the Christmas Island District High School and gave 4 presentations about the project and the shipwrecks of Christmas and Cocos Keeling Islands to the children from grade 4 up to 12. Graeme presented the school with a volume of his work, Unfinished Voyages. The school was very happy to receive this addition to their library. Alex, James, Shinatria and Robert went with Azmi to continue survey along the south and west coast, continuing re-surveying areas done the day before.
We had an amazing run of good weather so far. This is not too much of a shock since we deliberately came to the island during the best season for calm seas, namely cyclone season. Touch wood we shall avoid a cyclone yet, but even in this season the swell is sufficiently large to make steering a straight course a very tricky business. Swells from the Indian Ocean hit the limestone cliffs of Christmas Island and rebound off causing the water to boil. This is further exacerbated by wind and current. Not taking anything for granted, on Sunday team members will be visiting the temple of the Goddess of the Sea and thanking her in the name of archaeology.
Robert de Hoop