Vergulde Draeck

On 4 October 1655 the VOC (Dutch East Indies Company) ship Vergulde Draeck of the Amsterdam Chamber sailed from Texel in the Netherlands on her second voyage bound for the East Indies (now Indonesia). She was carrying, apart from passengers and crew, cargo, trade goods and silver coins worth 185,000 guilders. She reached the Cape of Good Hope on 9 March 1656 and four days later set sail for Batavia. She never reached her destination. . . . . . .

The Vergulde Draeck Tragedy happened on 28 April 1656, under the command of Pieter Albertszoon ran onto a reef off the coast of Western Australia about mid-way between what are now the towns of Seabird and Ledge Point. The site is about 100 kms north of Perth.

The ship had a complement of 193 crew and passengers on board. Only 75 of them made it on to the shore of the mainland.

Captain Albertszoon decided to send a party of sailors to Batavia, in the one schuyt (small boat) which had been saved from the wreck, to report the tragedy and ask for a rescue vessel to be sent. He had decided to stay with the survivors and to appoint his under steersman (second officer)  Abraham Leeman to lead the party of 7. He was probably influenced in his decision by the events following the wrecking of the Batavia on the Abrolhos Islands some 27 years earlier. On that occasion senior officers abandoned the survivors to sail to Batavia, leaving many survivors to be killed by mutineers. (See Batavia's Graveyard)

On striking the reef the Vergulde Draeck burst open and only a few provisions were saved.

When the 75 survivors had gathered ashore, a crew of 7 sailed to Batavia (now Jakarta in Indonesia) in a small sailing boat to report the wreck and to get help for the survivors. The journey took 6 weeks.

Including the Captain, 68 survivors stayed behind to survive as best they could in pre-colonial Western Australia. . . . . . .

Having adopted the Brouwer route, ie. followed the Roaring Forties east from the Cape, but obviously miscalculating his easting and possibly the latitude, Captain Pieter Albertszoon drove her onto a reef off the western coast of the Southland between the present day towns of Seabird and Ledge Point in Western Australia on 28 April 1656.

In a truly epic journey, Leeman and his crew reached Batavia on 7 June 1656 - 6 weeks later. A most remarkable and impressive feat of seamanship and endurance!

Meanwhile, 68 people had to survive in this foreign land . . . . . .

( See Rescue Ships)


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