“Amsterdam Lang 150 Voeten Gebleeven – op de kust van Sussex tusschen Hastings en Beachyhead gestrand”

Old Dutch: “Amsterdam stayed 150 feet long – stranded on the coast of Sussex between Hastings and Beachyhead”

This simple announcement was written by a clerk anno 1749 on a payroll of the VOC. The tragic history of the VOC ship Amsterdam(an East Indiaman) only lasts eleven months. In April 1748 one decided to build the ship, eight months later the ship was completed and in the beginning of November the Amsterdam lay ready for sail on the roe of Texel.

The storm

A fierce western wind prevented it from sailing out and only on the 8th of January the ship departed with a crew of 333 on board, amongst whom were three female passengers. A storm forced the captain, after losing the helm, to berth in front of the English coast. The ship, however, could not hold on for long and it had to be put on the beach after three days. The Amsterdam slowly sank away in the mud and in the sand. A number of attempts to salvage the ship were undertaken and in the beginning of March, when the cargo could not be reached anymore, it was decided to perceive the ship as lost.

One of the first protected shipwrecks

In 1969, 220 years later, treasure hunters took many objects from the ship with excavators, which damaged the hull and decks. After endorsement of the ‘Protection of Wreck Art’ in 1973, the Amsterdam became one of the first protected wrecks. Under the auspices of the former Ministry of Culture, Recreation and Social Welfare (CRM) and the Municipality of Amsterdam, the Stichting VOC-schip Amsterdam was founded in 1974.

Previous attempts

Influenced by the developments in submarine archeology this foundation started to aim at research on location in the beginning of the eighties. From 1984 onwards the foundation organised three excavations and set up a broad, historical and archeological investigation under the name of the Amsterdam-project. A reconstruction of the ship and even more of the firm of the Compagnie, based on a merger of archeological and historical data is the ultimate goal. Next to the most diverging discoveries and new facts about the ship, the Amsterdam-project laid the foundation for a new, modern approach of the research on Dutch East India carriers. The Amsterdam offers a unique opportunity to unlock a comprehensive and valuable source of information about the European and Dutch maritime past.