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MaSS

stepping stones of maritime history

History

The ship Risdam sailed as a merchant vessel for the Dutch East India Company(VOC). Risdam is one of the few discovered examples of a Dutch fluyt, which was a ship type characterized by a pear-shaped hull, and a flat bottom. The sloping sides made it difficult for attackers to board, and increased available cargo space. Fluyts were used mostly in the Baltic trade, and the design was intended to lower the toll for trade levied by the King of Denmark which was calculated by the width of the upper deck midship.

The shape of the fluyt resulted in a lowercenter of gravity, which meant higher masts, more sail, and fewer required sailors. The VOC used about 350 fluyts throughout its years of operation.

Risdam was lost on New Years Day of 1727, when her captain beached her on Elephant Rock near the coast of Mersing Johor in Malaysia. Risdam was on route to Batavia from Siam, but was leaking too badly to continue her journey. There was only one casualty from Risdam's loss, an old man who refused to leave the ship.

Model of Risdam. Source: gemeentehuis Hoorn.

Archaeological description

The wreck of Risdam was discovered in 1984 by Mike Hatcher, and was incredibly well preserved due to her location encased in the muddy sediment of the beach where she was lost. It has even been claimed to be the best preserved shipwreck together with the wreck of Amsterdam. Archaeological research was done in the form of a survey by Jeremy Green, an Australian archaeologist working with the Western Australian Maritime Museum, who later published his findings. During the course of the excavation, storage jars, tin and lead ingots, bricks, porcelain, and ivory were found, some of which have been incorporated into the museum collection at Muzium Negara in Malaysia.

The condition of the ship, and not just her cargo, was extremely well preserved when she was found, making her a find of incredible historical value. Unfortunately, her location was sold by the cook of the ship conducting the excavation to a group of looters from Singapore, who then used dynamite to blast through and destroy parts of the ship to get at her cargo. Hatcher attempted to raise protection efforts from the Netherlands, but was foiled due to the complex bureaucracy involved in the international situation since the Malaysian government did not recognize any claims of ownership by the government of the Netherlands regarding wreck of Risdam.

The efforts to form a society for the preservation of the wreck of Risdam failed, and today the condition of the wreck is unknown, since no preservation efforts have been undertaken. Unfortunately, the condition of the wreck of Risdam would be much better today if she had never been discovered.

Model ship of "the Risdam", Muzium Negara Malaysia.

Description

Type: Fluyt (fluitschip)

Name: Risdam

Built: 1713

Yard: Hoorn

Chamber: Amsterdam

Tonnage: 520, 260 last

Length: 130 feet

Complement: 125-180

Master: Cornelis Dam

Picture of Fluytships by Wenzel Hollar, 1647.

Status

When discovered the ship was well preserved due to its location in the muddy sedentation at the location of the wreck. It was even called one of the best preserved ships together with the"Amsterdam". A group of looters from Singapore, used dynamite to blast through and destroy parts of the ship to get at her cargo.

The Malaysian government does not see the Dutch as the rightfull owner and the Dutch claim has been turned down.

It is unknown if the ship is under protection by the Malaysian government.

East Indiaman

Roman structures