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Table of contents
1 The Historical Record
2 Current Theory
3 Archaeology
4 Access To Wreck
5 External links
6 See Also

The Historical Record

The VOC Zuytdorp was a trading ship of the Dutch East India Company in the 1700s. In 1712 it was despatched from Holland to the trading port of Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia) bearing a load of freshly minted silver coins.

Many trading ships of the time had started to use a "fast route" to Indonesia which used the strong Roaring Forties winds to carry them across the Indian Ocean to within sight of the west coast of Australia from whence they would make a left turn and head North towards Indonesia.

The Zuytdorp never arrived at its destination. No search was undertaken, presumably due to prior expensive but fruitless attempts to search for other missing ships. The ship and its crew were never heard of again.

Current Theory

Something, perhaps a violent storm, occurred and the Zuytdorp was wrecked on a desolate section of the Western Australian coast. Survivors scrambled ashore and camped near the wreck site. At this stage Australia had no colonies to which to turn for help, so they built huge bonfires from the wreckage to signal to fellow trading ships that would pass within sight of the coast. But fires seen in the vicinity tended to get dismissed as "native fires".

Eventually the survivors may have traded with or joined tribes of Aborigines in the area.

An infamous predecessor of the Zuytdorp, the VOC Batavia (ship) was wrecked not far away on the Houtman Abrolhos islands and after the following mutiny, atrocities, massacres and trials, two of the mutineers had been marooned on the Australian mainland, not far North from the later wreck of the Zuytdorp. Whether this had any affect on the local Aboriginals' attitude towards the survivors is unknown.


There is also some debate over the first person to discover the wreck in modern times. Certainly early exploration of the wreck was characterised by looting and treasure-hunting.

According to the 'Select Committee on Ancient Shipwrecks':

A special award ceremony was held in Geraldton on 22 February, 1996.

In 1834, Aborigines told a farmer near the recently colonised Perth about a wreck some distance to the North. Details strongly point to the Zuytdorp, however the colonists presumed it was a recent wreck and sent rescue parties who failed to find the wreck or any survivors. Presumably the story of the wreck had been passed down the generations.

Numerous excavations since 1941 have been conducted on the site. Primary discoveries included the remains of the actual wreck, just offshore, containing the carpet of silver(coins) the site was famous for, but later stolen under mysterious circumstances.

The Western Australian Maritime Museum has been instrumental in organising reseach expeditions to the site.

Phillip Playford has written a comprehensive book about the Zuytdorp called Carpet Of Silver: The Wreck Of The Zuytdorp (1996, University Of Western Australia Press) ISBN 1875560858

Access To Wreck

To be added....

External links

See Also