We studied the tree rings of the Batavia shipwreck timbers: they told us much about global seafaring history

Wendy van Duivenvoorde, Aoife Daly, Marta Domínguez Delmás

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    The wrecking of the Dutch East India Company ship Batavia in 1629 is perhaps the best-known maritime disaster in Australian history. The subject of books, articles, plays, and even an opera, Batavia was wrecked on a chain of small islands off the coast of Western Australia.
    The Dutch ship was 45.3 metres long and 600 metric tons in size. It sank on its maiden voyage to Southeast Asia. The shipwreck was found in the 1960s off Morning Reef and was excavated in the 1970s.
    The surviving stern section, now in Fremantle’s Western Australian Shipwrecks Museum, is the only portion of any early 17th-century Dutch East India ship raised from the seabed and preserved.
    Previously, historians could only guess where the timber for such ships came from, when it was felled or how it was used, as archival records of Dutch timber trade before 1650 are rare or lost.
    But in new research, we studied the tree rings of the Batavia shipwreck timbers. We have found that the oak for the hull was sourced from two separate forests (in northern Germany and the Baltic region); with wood for the framing elements coming predominantly from the forests of Lower Saxony. The timber was processed shortly after the trees were felled (in 1625 or later) and was still green when the shipbuilders cut and bent the planks into shape.
    Knowing more about these timbers helps us understand the Dutch success in world trade, including how they managed to build such large ocean-going vessels and so many of them.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages6
    Specialist publicationThe Conversation
    Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2021


    • Colonialism
    • Maritime Archaeology
    • Batavia
    • shipwreck
    • Dutch East India Company
    • Dendrochronology
    • Dendroarchaeology


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