Australia

  • Batavia shipwreck revealing new information

    Archaeologist Dr Jeremy Green photographing the Batavia shipwreck in the 1970s in its resting place near Beacon Island at the Houtman Abrolhos.


    By Natasha Harradine - ABC Mid West & Wheatbelt
     

    The Batavia shipwreck is revealing new details about the Dutch master shipbuilders of the 1600s. The ship sank off the coast of Western Australia on its maiden voyage in 1629.

    In the 1970s it was lifted from the sea bed and is now displayed at the WA Maritime Museum in Fremantle. It is the only surviving 17th-century ship from the Dutch East India Company.

    Lead author, associate professor Wendy van Duivenvoorde from Flinders University, said the vision of the WA Museum to lift and conserve the ship had created an international historic record for tree-ring studies.

    "The Batavia holds basically the only records that we have today that can provide us with information about what the Dutch were doing with their timber imports," she said.

    Dr van Duivenvoorde said the researchers were able to take more than 100 samples from the timber hull.

    "These are really beautiful oak that were easily 300 years old," she said. "I think the oldest tree ring that we have found in a plank comes from a tree that started growing in 1342, and I think from a frame 1340 or so."

    She said a ship like the Batavia would use at least 700 trees. Dr van Duivenvoorde said the master shipwrights of the 1600s were very selective in the timber used, with Baltic oak preferred for the hull, which sat below the waterline.


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