On 11 July 2002 the third consecutive season of the Anniversary Shipwreck Project excavation began with the departure of our diving support vessel ‘Terschelling’ from Plymouth. This year, the 400th anniversary of the formation of the Dutch East India Company, has been the longest on site, with six weeks of excavation . It is hoped that in this year in particular, the ongoing archaeological exploration of a vessel of the Company is one way of widening public awareness of the VOC, the trade with the East Indies, and provide information about life on board the vessels and what was required to support the settlements in Batavia. More importantly, it is hoped that it will awaken the interest in the underwater cultural heritage through an appreciation of the objects and information which can be obtained from the excavation of these shipwrecks. The wreck lies at a depth of between 18-20 metres of water on a seabed of sand and shell, approximately 18 miles west of Vlissingen. The site is relatively flat, with only a few features visible above the sand. These include remains of the sternpost and transom towards the port side. Excavation of this area outboard suggests that the vessel is resting 33 degrees to port. Excavation of this area outboard suggests that the vessel is resting 33 degrees to port. Also visible above the seabed are several large structural elements which define the port side and a few recognizable objects such as iron guns. Any structure above the seabed is covered with fishing nets. Loose portions of structure have been pulled and torn out of position due to centuries of fishing. Much is collapsed, broken, scattered and destroyed by marine boring organisms which eat wooden ships. It is truly a dark and inhospitable place, with visibility often less than the distance of an outstretched arm..
Excavation in 2000 and 2001 concentrated on the stern structure outboard and specific trenches outboard and just inboard either on the port side, or following the projected line of the port side (trenches 1,3,4,5, figure ). The only excavations inboard have been just inside the transom area, and trench 8- 14 metres south of the stern (trench 2), which had revealed a brick pavement interpreted as a cargo of bricks . During 2001 this was extended to the south, following the projected line of the port side, (trenches 4 and 5). Excavation of only a small amount of overburden (less than 40 cms) revealed a 10 m long pocket of archaeological material consisting of collapsed elements of ship’s structure, rigging, and personal possessions carried as cargo probably in the hold. Although only one intact chest was recovered, the close association of similar artefacts such as a number of carpentry tools and rolls of material, ribbon, pins, suggest that pockets of closely associated objects had been derived from chests which had disintegrated. Many of the carpentry tools were incised with the letters J.B, this has been traced to a carpenter, J. De Bouwman , who lived in Dordrecht and had one chest on board.
Excavation inboard demonstrated the stowage of the brick cargo which covers the middle of the ship, three bricks deep and not extending above the riders which cross the ship. The bricks are all stowed on their sides, along the length of the ship. The bricks are placed directly on the inner planking and this stowage area is divided by a rider from lead ingots which are situated on the floors lying across the ship tight up to against the transom.
In order to find the keelson and therefore the midline of the ship from the sternpost, an excavation trench was undertaken just forward of midships Trench 7). Although uncovered by the Swan, the majrity of this was excavated by hand using a pneumatic chisel and 100 mm (4”) airlift. The trench was 1.5 m wide and 10 m long. This revealed the keelson covered by one layer of bricks, with an additional two layers on either side. The keelson is 780 mm wide with a height above the floor timbers of 240mm.
The survey network started in 2000 was extended. The following control points were used for tape surveys. Where feasible, distance and bearing were taken to specific points within the network and tied into the ships navigation system using the Eiva NaviPack programme. All consist of round yellow circular survey tags screwed into the structure with the number inscribed in black.
CP2 Corner of the portside and transom
CP16 W end of feature described as windlass, e/w amidships
CP23 E end of feature described as windlass, e/w amidships
CP17 Starboard side structure, stern
CP19 Starboard side structure, stern
CP18 Stern gun close to portside, north trunnion
CP20 Gun southwest of windlass, north trunnion
CP21 Portside, lead roll amidships
CP22 Portside, large rider, edge trench 5
Old survey tags noted, but not used, consisted of CP14, a loose halfbeam or companionway element, and CP12, timber in trench 3.