Tag Archives: underwater cultural heritage

And then it was the last day…

We have spent the couple of days approximately 20 hours underwater, with each time effectively 25 minutes dive time at 24 metres. We have covered a large area and managed to map the site reasonably well. We go back with measurements, film and photo footages, drawings and observations. Now we have to put this all together to create a good site plan and to answer our scientific questions. We have it all and will thus be able to come up with a recommendation for the future, and perhaps a future excavation proposal, depending on the further analysis of the results. It’s all very exciting!

One thing is sure, we had a great time working together with the different groups. I would like to thank all of them, not only for the diving but also for all the discussions we had, the exchange of knowledge and all the fun. In the end, a beautiful project like this should be enjoyed, and we did with a smile even while making days from 5 o’clock to 23h.

So thank you, the team in Ramsgate:  Mark James, Alex Hildred, Dan Pascoe, Johan Opdebeeck, Pete Magowan, Mark Hobbs, Graham Scott, Paolo Croce, Thijs Coenen and Kester Keighley

The lovely Dan (Poppy) and Ben of our ship The Predator (project savers)

Alison James, Angela Middleton and Mark Dunkley from Historic England

Peter Holt for being our telephone hotline for Side Recorder

Peter Hamer for equipment maintenance and delivery

Pidge the cook

Kai Dieho the camera man

Willemien van de Langemheen and Debbie Hickman for the wonderful job they did to communicate the project to the outside world and to maintain contact with the press

And last but by no means least: Ken Welling, the licensee of the Rooswijk shipwreck, for sharing the enormous amount of information he gathered about the site with us, as Rex Cowan did, thank you both.

It was a huge success and let’s do it again!

Martijn Manders

Photo above: The team! From left to right: Martijn Manders, Thijs Coenen, Ben, Dan (Poppy), Peter Magowan, Mark Hobbs, Paolo Croce, Kai Dieho, Johan Opdebeeck, Mark James, Alison James, Alex Hildred, Dan Pascoe, Kester Keighley (missing: Graham Scott who took the photo!)



The Rooswijk 1740, an update

Today we give you a short update about the work that the joint Dutch-English team of archaeologists is doing on the Rooswijk shipwreck.

The Rooswijk was a Dutch East Indian (VOC) ship that sank on an outbound journey on the Goodwin Sands in the UK, one day after it left the Texel Roads. All hands were lost and the wreck is now lying at approximately 24 metres depth.

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The dive team that worked on the site in 2005 gathered a  lot of information on site and lifted – amongst others – silver and gold coins and silver ingots. The information gathered at that time has not been published yet, but also lacks sufficient context with the ship construction.

Historic England designated the wreck site in 2007 under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 (https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/what-is-designation/protected-wreck-sites/wreck/rooswijk).

Current information has shown that the site is under threat of erosion of the seabed. The Goodwin Sands is a very dynamic area with huge sandbanks moving constantly.  This also became evident by comparing sonar recordings of 2015 and July 2016.

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The team wants to investigate how much the site is threatened, but also where this extra information to connect objects to the wreck can be found. The current research could lead to an extensive excavation which may possibly be conducted in the next coming years.

Before such an undertaking can be executed more information should be gathered about the condition of wood, iron and other material, about the best place to start an excavation and how this research could be best executed.

The team consists of archaeologists from the Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE), Historic England, the former dive team working on the site in 2005, Wessex Archaeology (the contractor for Historic England) and MSDS Marine, the current dive contractor.  We are working on the dive support vessel Predator from Essex.

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We are now 5 days on our way. The sun is shining constantly and the first days the weather was very good on the site. The visibility as well (approx. 2 metres). However, wind has picked up from the wrong direction now and we have lost a few tides on Thursday and Friday.

The site has however been found, canons have been identified and we are now working on mapping the Rooswijk shipwreck in order to bring back as much information as possible to start planning method, cost and people needed for the much bigger research that we may execute again with a large international team. Other options will also be taken into account  like (temporary) in situ preservation.  This all depends on what we will find.

The diving will finish on the 15th of September. The project already generated a lot of publicity and general interest in the Netherlands as well as in the UK.

More about the Rooswijk project:

Historic England (press release)

Cultural Heritage Agency (in Dutch) (persbericht)

Follow the project on Twitter using #Rooswijk1740

Continuing the Van Bosse research on Tarama: agreeing on future activities

The past few days were devoted to exploring the possibilities to learn more about the wreck Van Bosse which sank in 1857 off the coast of Tarama. By conducting several interviews with residents, who have been narrated stories about the wreck by their ancestors, but also with information from local books and archives we are able to develop scenarios about how the ship must have sunk after being leak bumped on the reef. This again helps us with the search for the wreck itself.

We have found objects, like an anchor, a bottle of gin, a huge chest and shards of major Chinese jars that may also have been on board the ship. But parts of the ship itself are still not found. Dr. Ikeda and Mr. Sasaki will focus their attention on this in November. Using a metal detector they will search the impact site, where most objects are found and everything in between will be swum and explored.

The beach of Tarama at the spot where the Van Bosse ship presumably sank

At the same time they will continue to conduct interviews with the people of Tarama who know the stories about the wreck. An information project with the elementary school will be launched. In November, the children on the island can meet archaeologists and interview them for the project. In the Netherlands and Germany we will do further research into the archives.

Meeting with the head of the island

The Van Bosse project is alive! It’s interesting and amazing to see how excited everyone is. The administration of the island would like to do more with the story and the wreck site. It would indeed give the particularly beautiful diving at Tarama an additional cultural and historical dimension. Then it becomes even more worthwhile to travel over here and visit this island paradise, voted one of the most beautiful municipalities of Japan.

Martijn Manders, maritime archaeologist / Head Maritime Programme RCE

Photo at the top: the highest point of the island, about 30 m, with a 15 / 16th century lighthouse


Searching underwater for the Van Bosse ship (1857)

A team of underwater archaeologists consisting of two members of the Japanese National Committee for Research and the Examination of Underwater Cultural Heritage Dr. Ikeda and Dr. Kimura, as well as mr. Sasaki from the National Museum of Kyushu and mr. Manders from the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands has arrived on Tarama island. This is one of the most Southwestern Islands of the Japanese archipelago, actually very close to Taiwan.

In November a Japanese team of professional archaeologists and sports divers associated with the only dive school on the island – Jaws 2 – will map and assess the site of the Van Bosse wreck and make it accessible for the sports divers who spend their holidays on the island. The visit now in August is mainly initiated as a start of the project about the Van Bosse shipwreck which includes also educational elements and archival research in several countries. The 22nd of August the team was welcomed by the department of education of the island that effectively is responsible for the management of this and other archaeological sites. They have assured us that all help in this is welcome. After this meeting we went to the dive shop to sort out our gears and then settled down in our condo which we share together.

The evening was used to discuss the possibilities to find elements of the wrecksite underwater and to pinpoint the exact place of wreckage, which is still not completely known. Dr. Kaneda wrote in 2001 an article ‘Historical Investigation concerning the Dutch Ship Van Bosse Wrecked Off the coast of the Tarama Islet’ and this article has also been discussed between the archaeologists in order to find out what the chances of finding wreckage are and what kind of research should be further conducted.

Van Bosse 2016 duik 1 (39) blog 2

The morning on the 23rd we were up early to go diving from the beach to the place where the ship according to accounts must have wrecked and where a fisherman has salvaged many pottery over the years. Indeed by walking on the beach we collected many pottery shards of different kinds. These are however mainly Chinese.

The coastal waters around the island Tarama are very shallow and abruptly become much deeper with here and there dangerous rocks ending just a few meters under the sea surface. For somebody who is not acquainted with these waters, it is a dangerous place. The underwater world, just at the edge of shallow and deep is however stunningly beautiful!

The second dive today was in deeper waters with the dive shop Jaws 2 and their ship. At 28 meters of depth, again on the edge of where the water gets very shallow and  near the place we had been diving in the morning, a considerable amount of pottery shards from large Chinese storage jars can be seen lying on the seabed. Were these used at the Van Bosse ship? It came from China…

Van Bosse 2016 duik 2 (19) blog 2

Also an enormous iron crate was discovered. Definitely something has happened here. The area however is large and the research in November should reveal the size of the site and maybe even also the location of impact: where the ship has hit the reef.

Tonight we will talk with an old fisherman. Let’s see if he can help us out.  Tomorrow, the 24th we are invited by the head of the island, similar to a mayor and in the afternoon we have a round up with the advisory board of the heritage of Tarama. Then up to Fukuoka for further talks at the Kyushu National Museum, our partner in shared heritage management.

Martijn Manders, maritime archaeologist/Head Maritime Programme RCE

Japanese – Dutch research on shipwreck Van Bosse about to begin

In August, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) is joining forces with the Kyushu National Museum to conduct an exploratory research on the Dutch shipwreck Van Bosse. The research focuses on exploring opportunities for mapping the Van Bosse and providing accessibility to the wreck for local sports divers. The project is a continuation of existing cooperation with Japan in the field of maritime archeology within the framework of Dutch Shared Cultural Heritage policy. The site of this Dutch wreck is already protected locally. The ship was built in Germany, but registered by the Dutch owner in Rotterdam.


The ship Van Bosse was originally built in 1854 in Germany. The 665t big three master barque, which was employed by the Bonke & Co. Trading in Rotterdam was on its way from Shanghai to Singapore when it sank during a storm in 1857 at Tarama island, Okinawa prefecture. Luckily all 27 people on board survived, but before they could return to Batavia in the Dutch East Indies, people stayed several months in Okinawa and integrated into the local community.

The story of the sinking of the Van Bosse and the interaction of the people of Tarama with the crew of the ship are recorded in detail. It gives us a good insight into the history of the Ryukyu Kingdom and the relationship that it had with foreign powers at a time when the self-isolationism of Japan had just been lifted. It is striking that until few years ago nobody knew exactly what ship it was, although the story of the sinking of the ship was well known. We know it now, thanks to extensive research in Dutch archives.

The Van Bosse shipwreck is registered as a Village Historic Site (オ ラ ン ダ 船 遭難 の 地: Oranda-sen Sonan no Chi ~ Site of Dutch ship wreck). It lies on a reef at depths ranging from a few meters to about 30 meters. Over the years, an iron anchor was lifted, which is on display in a local museum, and several other finds such as a complete Lucas Bols gin bottle and some salvaged porcelain shards.

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However, there’s more to be found. Despite the protected status of the ship an archeological significance assessment of the wreck site has not yet been made. This will take place this autumn and is having its official start now in August, with a first joint visit to the site. Ultimately this will lead to a management plan for the site in which all interests should be taken into account. The Van Bosse wreck is already dived regularly by sport divers. A local dive shop has voluntarily undertaken protection of the site. The local authorities are working on an active promotion. The aim is to use the wreck to attract more recreational divers to the island. But what measures are necessary to facilitate an intensive visit of sports divers? How, for example, can the remains underwater be protected while still visible and accessible to visitors? And there is need for more information about the site to allow divers to fully experience the wreck and its history when they are underwater.

In August Dr. Ikeda from the University of Okinawa, Dr. Jun Kimura of the Tokai University in Tokyo (with students), Randy Sasaki of the Kyushu National Museum and Martijn Manders (RCE)  will officially start the project. In November, the Japanese partners will conduct follow-up research historical research in the Netherlands and Germany will be coordinated by the RCE.


Late August the World Archaeological Congress (WAC http://wac8.org/) will be held in Kyoto, Japan. As part of the Japanese – Dutch cooperation Martijn Manders and Yoshihi Akashi will represent the Fukuoka prefecture and chair the session ‘Global Perspectives on Underwater Cultural Heritage Management’. The presentations will elaborate on universal values of the underwater cultural heritage management, what needs to be improved in management and the way countries can cooperate in the protection of underwater cultural heritage. This fits exactly with the way the research on the Van Bosse shipwreck is implemented: a collaboration between various parties in the country where the ship sank, Japan, and the country of origin, the Netherlands.

Martijn Manders, maritime archaeologist/Head Maritime Programme RCE

Scheepswrakken voor de kust van Suriname

De Tweede Wereldoorlog wordt in het Caraïbisch gebied gekenmerkt als een oorlog waarbij voornamelijk op zee werd gevochten. De Duitsers probeerden met operatie Paukenschlag de goederen toevoer, en met name de toevoer van grondstoffen, stop te zetten. Ook vrachtschepen uit Suriname werden slachtoffer van deze operatie. Een van de schepen die slachtoffer werd van de Duitse onderzeeboten was de Frank Seamans, een meer dan honderd meter lang Noors vrachtschip die met een lading bauxiet vanuit Suriname onderweg was naar Trinidad.

In het kader van mijn thesisonderzoek heb ik samen met het personeel van de Kustwacht van Suriname, de RCE en enkele duikers verkenningstochten gemaakt om het wrak van de Frank Seamans te zoeken die voor de kust in de Atlantische Oceaan moet liggen. Helaas konden wij niet achterhalen waar het schip was, omdat de posities niet nauwkeurig genoeg waren. Er is geprobeerd met de dieptemeter van het schip alsnog een indicatie te krijgen van de locatie, maar dat leverde niet veel resultaten op. De plek, 50 km uit de kust is ongeveer 30 meter diep, maar helaas ook nog altijd zeer modderig. Er is dus geen zicht onderwater maar wel een forse stroming. Daarom hebben we uiteindelijk besloten om niet te gaan duiken. De risico’s waren te groot.

Crew verkleind
De crew waarmee de verkenningstochten zijn gemaakt

Naast de Frank Seamans waren ons nog drie posities van scheepswrakken doorgegeven. Echter alleen de posities, dichter bij de kust en op ongeveer 10 meter diepte, waren bekend. De bemanning van het schip van de Kustwacht kon ons niet dicht in de buurt brengen, omdat niet bekend was hoe groot de wrakken waren, hoe exact de posities die bij ons bekend waren zijn en hoever deze boven de bodem uitsteken. Er waren dus grote risico’s dat het schip in aanvaring zou komen met een van de wrakken. Dit was al reeds met het ons begeleidende schip gebeurd. Daarbij was het water hier nog donkerder en onstuimiger. Netten kunnen verstrikt raken in de wrakken en  daardoor ontstaan levensgevaarlijke situaties. Ook hier dus weer een no-go wat duiken betreft. Al met al wel een teleurstelling maar we hadden dit risico ingecalculeerd. We gingen er op uit om ervaring op te doen en we hebben dit opgezet om te kijken hoe we in de toekomst projecten kunnen oppakken met onze partners.

Het is ons duidelijk geworden dat de samenwerking tussen de Anton de Kom Universiteit, het Ministerie van OWC, de Kustwacht en de Maritieme Autoriteiten Suriname (MAS) onontbeerlijk is. Ten eerste is nog maar heel weinig bekend over de wrakken voor onze kust. Sommigen hiervan zullen mogelijk een archeologische waarde hebben, maar vormen zeker ook een obstructie voor de huidige scheepvaart. Het in kaart brengen hiervan, waarbij een exacte positie, grootte en diepte van iedere obstakel wordt opgemeten is dus geen overbodige luxe. Dit zou bijvoorbeeld doormiddel van surveys met een side scan sonar al kunnen gebeuren.

Ook zou de opslag en het beschikbaar stellen van data die bij andere onderzoeken wordt verzameld (bijvoorbeeld bij onderzoeken naar olie) kunnen helpen om een beter inzicht te krijgen in de zeebodem. Direct aan dit onderzoek zou cultuurhistorisch onderzoek gekoppeld kunnen worden. Met exacte posities en side scan sonar beelden kunnen al indicaties van de aard van de vindplaatsen worden gegeven. Het combineren van onderzoek levert dus een hoop synergie en waarschijnlijk veel winst op wat betreft de inzet van geld en middelen. De komende tijd zullen de nieuwe partners in het maritiem onderzoek in Suriname de handen ineen gaan slaan om de ideeën ook echt gestalte te gaan geven.

Dharwiendre Rambharosa 

Cocos Keeling islands: Searching for ivory as indicator to wrecks

Lees deze blog in het Nederlands

The Wreck Check team were conscious that the 7-day stay on Cocos Keeling Islands was a narrow window of survey opportunity, but luckily we were able to go out on the water everyday. North Keeling, the top survey priority, is 28 km due north from the main atoll and the gap between each island is subject to deep ocean swells. Operating out of the six-meter-long Park’s boat Pulu Bill the journey was bouncy at times as we punched into deep ocean swells.

We surveyed a lot of parts of the island with the magnetometer again and besides that we visited sites of known wrecks to document them using photogrammetry and by doing corrosion measurements. One of the highlights of this week was diving on the SMS Emden, see the previous blog.

Monday was the last day of fieldwork on Cocos Island and for this season. We have completed the survey around Turks Reef and Horsburgh Island. Except for our first day on the water, over the week on Cocos Island we have contended with 10-15 knot SE winds and swell 1-2 meters. This has definitely limited our opportunities to survey and dive in our target areas. To exacerbate the difficulties, targets in the 6 – 8 meter depth contour around the atoll are usually just out of the surf zone making safe access and exit enormously problematic in large swell. Besides Turks Reef and Horsburg Island we were able to survey the south and parts of the west side of West Island, the north and west side of Direction Island. These were the most important parts of the island to survey as ships would have passed here because of the shipping route at that time.

The Cocos-Keeling Islands.

As always we have worked hard to achieve what could be done within the parameters of weather. Work inside the lagoon is possible and several sites have been dived and surveyed when weather has driven us back into the lagoon. We dived a SIEV (Suspected Illegal Entry Vehicle) that was found last year, a working barge, an unidentified wreck that we think is the Robert Portner. and we also snorkeled at the Phaeton wreck site. At all these sites we took pictures and video for photogrammetry and where possible with the current and swell we also did corrosion measurements.

While information collected from the Emden continues to be worked up our primary quest to search for the Fortuyn has been heavily impacted. Progress was made on following up on a report to the Queensland Museum in the 1980’s of a discovery of an elephant tusk at the southern end of the runway on West Island. This is relevant because another VoC shipwreck the Aagtekerke is reported as carrying elephant tusks. The team were able to walk the beach area and surveyed directly off shore with the magnetometer.

On the last day we were are all packing, backing up data and getting ready to fly home. Still, in the time left in the morning Graeme and Andy managed to squeeze in talking to four classes ranging from Kindergarten to grades 3-4 on Home Island. Some great questions and lots of good engagement from the students.

Team member Andrew Viduka talking to the school kids on Home Island.
Team member Andrew Viduka talking to the school kids on Home Island.

While the next steps for the team are to process collected data over the coming months from the magnetometer surveys, the photogrammetry and the corrosion measurements, we would now like to recognize the wonderful support of our partner, sponsors and supporters who enabled this fieldwork to be undertaken. Our research partner the Maritime Programme of the Netherlands Ministry of Culture, The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Australia, Silent World Foundation, Parks Australia and the Australian Government Department of the Environment. We would also like to recognize the excellent contribution to this years fieldwork by Shinatria Adhityatama (ARKENAS, Indonesia) and Robert de Hoop (University of Southern Denmark). Without the significant support of the Maritime Programme of the Netherlands Ministry of Culture their attendance would not have been possible. Special thanks to Rob Muller, Ishmael MacRae and Trish Flores of Parks Australia for the assistance.

The SMS Emden

Lees hier de blog in het Nederlands.

On Tuesday we left Christmas Island and went to the Cocos-Keeling Islands. The Cocos-Keeling Islands are a group of 27 coral islands that are located in the Indian Ocean approximately 2700 km north-west of Perth. The main islands form a typical horseshoe-shaped atoll surrounded by a coral reef. Each island has rough coral beaches to seaward and sandy beaches on the lagoon side. The islands are low lying and most are thickly covered with coconut palms. Wildlife on the islands consists mainly of seabirds. Just like on Christmas Island, land crabs are common on all islands and the surrounding reefs support a diverse range of corals, fish and other marine organisms.

Surveying again!
Surveying again!

After the team unpacked and setup base at ‘The Castle’, we started doing a magnetometer survey again. After that we snorkeled the Phaeton wreck. The Phaeton was built at Sunderland (UK) in 1868 as a composite ship (timber planking over iron frames) and was 46 meter long. It wrecked in Cocos in 1889 while carrying a cargo of copra from Cocos Island back to Europe. At about half past five on the morning of the 25 September the Phaeton was discovered to be on fire. The fire force pump was in the area of the fire and could not be reached safely and the vessel could not be saved. To avoid blocking the entrance to the lagoon, the Phaeton was run aground in its present position, broken up and salvage. We hope to make a 3D photogrammetry model of the remains of the Phaeton using photos and video we made.

North Keeling and the SMS Emden

Besides looking for the Fortuyn and the Aagtekerke one of our objectives here is to properly record the SMS Emden. This German light cruiser was at her home port of Tsing-Tau in China at the outbreak of World War 1. She was on her way on the 6th of August with orders to her captain Von Muller to destroy as much allied ships as possible. Her rampage in the Indian Ocean was brief but spectacular as she managed to sink 15 merchant ships, a Russian cruiser and a French destroyer in less than two months!

Early on the morning of November 9th the Emden appeared off the Cocos-Keeling Islands, and sent a landing party of three officers and forty-two men ashore to dismantle the cable station that was there. While they were at work the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney arrived. Although the Emden’s gunnery was excellent and her opening salvo scored a direct hit on the Sydney, she was no real match for the larger ship. Within two hours, she was out of action, and hopelessly disabled. It was then about noon, and the Sydney left her to chase a captured merchantman which had been acting as an escort for the Emden. On her return, about 4.00 pm, she found the Emden still flying her colors, but unable to move. The Sydney signaled to her to surrender, but received no answer, and finally fired several further rounds at her. Only then did von Muller strike his flag. By this time the Emden was blazing furiously amidships, and in an attempt to save as many of his crew as possible he drove her on to the reef fringing the south coast of North keeling.

North Keeling is located approximately 27 km from the main group of islands and is thus quite remote and not a lot of people go there. It was really special to be able to dive there and see the remains of the vessel, because although it has been partly salvaged there is still a lot left of it as you can see on the photos we took. One of our team members even went on the island with Triss from Parks Australia, to document the remains of the vessel on land! Just as with the Phaeton we hope to make a nice 3D photogrammetry model of the ship to get a good overview of the site. We also documented what still remains of the vessel and did a corrosion measurement.

In the following days we will continue our survey for the Fortuyn and the Aagtekerke. We will keep you updated as good as we can with the limited internet access we have here..


De SMS Emden

Read this blog in English!

Op dinsdag verlieten we Christmas Island en gingen we naar de Cocos-Keeling Islands, een groep van 27 koraaleilanden in de Indische Oceaan zo’n 2.700 km ten noordwesten van Perth. De hoofdeilanden vormen een atol met een typische hoefijzervorm dat omringd is door een koraalrif. Elk eiland heeft ruwe koraalstranden richting de open zee en zandstranden aan de lagunekant. De eilanden zijn laag en de meeste zijn dicht begroeid met kokospalmen. Wild op de eilanden bestaat voornamelijk uit zeevogels. Net als op Christmas Island komen hier op alle eilanden veel landkrabben voor en het rif rond de eilanden herbergt allerlei koralen, vissen en andere mariene organismen.

Weer aan het meten!

Zodra het team alles had uitgepakt en zich geïnstalleerd had in ‘The Castle’ gingen we opnieuw metingen uitvoeren met de magnetometer. Daarna snorkelden we naar het wrak van de Phaeton. De Phaeton werd in 1868 gebouwd in de Engelse stad Sunderland; het was een zogeheten composietschip (gemaakt van houten planken die op een stalen frame worden bevestigd) met een lengte van 46 meter. In 1889 leidde de Phaeton schipbreuk bij Cocos, terwijl het een lading kopra van Cocos Island terug naar Europa vervoerde. Op 25 september ontdekte men rond half vijf ‘s ochtends dat de Phaeton in brand stond. De brandbluspomp bevond zich in het gedeelte waar de brand woedde en kon niet op een veilige manier worden bereikt, met als gevolg dat het schip niet gered kon worden. Om te voorkomen dat de toegang tot de lagune werd geblokkeerd, liet men de Phaeton op haar huidige plek vastlopen en werd het schip opengebroken en geborgen. We hopen dat we een 3D-fotogrammetriemodel van de resten van de Phaeton kunnen maken met behulp van de foto’s en video die we gemaakt hebben.

North Keeling en de SMS Emden

Naast het zoeken naar de Fortuyn en de Aagtekerke is een van onze doelen hier om de SMS Emden goed vast te leggen. Deze Duitse lichte kruiser lag in zijn thuishaven Tsing-Tau in China toen de eerste wereldoorlog uitbrak. Het schip voer op 9 augustus uit, met orders voor kapitein Von Muller om zo veel mogelijk schepen van de geallieerden onklaar te maken. Deze kruiser voerde een korte maar spectaculaire strijd in de Indische Oceaan: de Emden slaagde erin om in minder dan twee maanden tijd vijftien koopvaardijschepen, een Russische kruiser en een Franse torpedobootjager te vernietigen!

In de vroege ochtend van 9 november doemde de Emden op voor de kust van de Cocos-Keeling Islands; drie officieren en 42 manschappen werden aan land gestuurd om het telegraafstation op het eiland te ontmantelen. Terwijl ze daarmee bezig waren, kwam de Australische kruiser HMAS Sydney aan. Hoewel de Emden over een uitstekend geschut beschikte en het schip met het openingssalvo de Sydney meteen wist te raken, was het toch geen partij voor het grotere schip. Binnen twee uur was de Emden uitgeschakeld en lag het schip hopeloos in puin. Dat was rond het middaguur en de Sydney liet de Emden achter om een buitgemaakt koopvaardijschip, dat als een escorte voor de Emden had gefunctioneerd, te pakken te krijgen. Toen de Sydney rond vier uur ’s middags terugkeerde, hing de vlag van de Emden nog in de mast maar was het schip niet in staat om te varen. De Sydney gaf het signaal dat de bemanning zich over moest geven, maar toen er geen antwoord kwam, werden er nog enkele salvo’s op de Emden gevuurd. Pas daarna besloot Von Muller de vlag te strijken. Tegen die tijd sloegen er op de Emden midscheeps al enorme vlammen uit. In een poging om zo veel mogelijk bemanningsleden te redden, stuurde de kapitein het schip richting het rif voor de zuidkust van North Keeling.

North Keeling ligt ongeveer op 27 km van de hoofdeilanden van de Cocos-Keeling groep en omdat het behoorlijk afgelegen ligt, gaan er niet veel mensen heen. Het was dan ook heel bijzonder om op die plek te duiken en de resten van het schip te zien liggen. Ondanks dat het schip al deels is geborgen, is er nog een hoop achtergebleven – zoals je kunt zien op de foto’s die we hebben gemaakt. Een van onze teamleden is zelfs samen met Triss van Parks Australia het eiland op geweest om de resten van het schip op het land te documenteren! Net als bij de Phaeton hopen we een mooi 3D-fotogrammetriemodel van het schip te kunnen maken om een goed overzicht van de locatie te krijgen. We hebben vastgelegd wat er nog over is van het schip en ook een corrosiemeting uitgevoerd.

In de komende dagen gaan we verder met het zoeken naar de Fortuyn en de Aagtekerke. We zullen jullie zo goed mogelijk op de hoogte houden met de beperkte internetverbinding die we hier hebben…


More insight in the thirty shipwrecks around Christmas Island

We are now reasonably confident that the 1724 Fortuyn does not lie between 0-30 meters in the water off Christmas Island. We have re-run the priority areas on the south-west side of the island with a more sensitive magnetometer (for detecting magnetic iron objects such as anchors and cannon) than we employed in 2015. Divers have visually inspected all of the promising anomalies without seeing cultural material. Some of the anomalies have been discounted because they appear to have been affected by the magnetic basalt rock forming the core of the island.

We did some more photogrammetry in the last couple

We did some more photogrammetry in the last couple of days to hone our skills. This time we tried to do an object underwater and chose a mooring anchor. The computer is still crunching the data so we’ll show you the result in the next blog!

Christmas Island is fringed with a thick underwater coral platform. Its width varies and most of it slopes gently before curving steeply downward into the depths. During the last two weeks we have been following up on stories from the Dutch Facebook followers and the Christmas Island community about other shipwrecks here or nearby, in particular the Dutch ships, the 1100 ton Arinus Marinus wrecked in 1821 and the 500 ton Vice Admiraal Rijk wrecked in 1852, but also a lot of others.

The Dutch ship named the Vice Admiraal Rijk was lost on the south-west side of the island in 1852. Three men survived, managing to scale the cliffs and living ashore on raw seabirds for 57 days before being rescued by another passing ship. One of the three men left a detailed account of the wreck and his experience on the island. Around midnight the ship crashed onto the cliffs on the north side of the south-west point, breaking a large hole in the bow before turning out from the cliffs and immediately sinking entirely below the waves, with all sails still set.

We regard the Vice Admiraal Rijk as a useful model for assessing what would have happened to the Fortuyn if it struck the south-west coast. So we placed a major focus on inspecting the north side of the south-west point, carrying out a visual inspection of the anomalies and then swimming abreast along the coral platform. We saw no wreckage.

We inspected all the anomalies on the north side of the south-west point using divers and then swam abreast along the coral platform

The coral covering on the Eisvold, a 1942 shipwreck elsewhere on the island, is up to 0.5 meters thick, and coral would be expected to conceal smaller cultural objects on a wreck on south-west point. However, if the Vice Admiraal Rijk had broken up on the platform we should have seen objects such as large anchors protruding above the coral. Much of the platform there is only around 50 meters wide, with a vertical drop off into some 90 meters water depth. The Vice Admiraal Rijk must have slipped over the precipice without first breaking up.

Much of the platform is only around 50 meters wide, with a vertical drop off into some 90 meters water depth

Our theorizing, about whether a vessel striking the cliffs would break up against the cliffs or bounce back from the cliffs and slide off the platform into deep water, was based on accounts of the sinking in 2010, near Flying Fish Cove, of the asylum boat SIEV 221. Residents saw that that vessel was trapped between the swells and the backwash, in a ‘washing machine’ effect.

At the south-west point we saw a lot of small pieces of plastic bags suspended in the water column –  plastic brought from Indonesia on southerly water currents, then trapped close to the cliffs in the same washing machine effect. It appears then, that this would trap small items such as plastic bags, and even a medium sized object such as the SIEV 221 (a light wooden fishing vessel probably under 20 metres). However, probably not such a large object as the 35-metre hull of the Vice Admiraal Rijk. If this wreck has not been trapped by the violent pushing of the waves and swells, then probably the larger, 800 ton and 44-metre long Fortuyn wouldn’t either and may have slipped well beyond the 30-metres depth limit of our search.

At the south-west point we saw a lot of small pieces of plastic bags suspended in the water column – plastic brought from Indonesia on southerly water currents, then trapped close to the cliffs in the washing machine effect

Will we ever know? There is a slight chance of finding the wreck at Cocos Keeling. We will find out in the next coming week! The diving on Christmas Island gave us lot of new insights on other – some of them also Dutch – wrecks and a list of 30 shipwrecks that may have been foundered close to Christmas Island. School children have been taught about their past and the students on the project, me and Shinatria, have had a great time so far, learning enormously about the search for shipwreck. But we are not ready yet!

Cocos Keeling, here we come!