Banda was a merchant vessel that sailed for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) during the early seventeenth century. Banda was part of a fleet of three other ships returning to Patria from Bantam. The three other ships in the fleet were Delft, Gelderlandand Geunieerde Provincien, and the commander of the fleet was Dutch Admiral Pieter Both. On the night of March 5, 1615, the fleet was hit by a hurricane, and Bandastruck a reef near Mauritius, while she was seeking shelter in the bay of a river. Thirty deaths were reported, among them the fleet commander Pieter Both. Two other ships of the fleet were lost, and only Delftmade it back to the Netherlands. This was an important loss for the VOC, and led to the naming of the highest peak of the island after Pieter Both, the Pieter Bothsberg.
The wreck of Banda was discovered in 1979 by a French team. After the discovery, a contract regarding the her salvage was made between the Dutch government and R. Cowan, who later wrote an article about the ship. Some of the artifacts retrieved from the wreck site included gold, coins, porcelain, and cannons. The recovered artifacts were later sold at auction, and some are displayed in the National Museum of Mauritius. Among the artifacts was a marine astrolabe, an instrument to measure longitude, and it was a rare Portuguese item bearing the year 1568, making it the third oldest known Portuguese marine astrolabe.
The Dutch are not recognized as the
owners of the wreck, which is currently
controlled and maintained by the
Mauritian ministry of culture. The site
is protected by law, but is threatened
by natural erosion, coral overgrowth,
diving, and tourism.
The mariner's astrolabe, also called the
seaastrolabe, was an inclinometer used to
determine the latitude of a ship at sea by
measuring the sun's noon altitude (declination)
or the meridian altitude of a star of known
declination. Not an astrolabe proper, the
mariner's astrolabe was rather a graduated
circle with an alidade used to measure vertical
angles. They were designed to allow for their use
on boats in rough water and/or in heavy winds,
which astrolabes are ill equipped to handle.
In the sixteenth century, the instrument was
also called a ring.
The earliest known description of how to
make and use a sea astrolabe comes from
Martín Cortés de Albacars Arte de
Navegar published in 1555.
Type: East Indiaman (Spiegelretourschip)
Tonnage: 700, 350 last
Length: 42 m. (keel)
Captain: Cornelis Claesz