The story of the wreck of the ZEEWIJK in 1727, although not as dramatic as that of the BATAVIA, is nevertheless one of the most remarkable sagas in the annals of the sea, as the survivors constructed a small ship from the wreckage and sailed it successfully to Java.

The ZEEWIJK departed from Vlissingen (Flushing), on its maiden voyage, on 7 November 1726, under the command of Jan Steyns, carrying a rich cargo that included 315.836 guilders in cash, stored in ten chests. The ship arrived at the Cape of Good Hope on 26 March 1727 and departed for Batavia on 21 April. Seven weeks later, at about 7.30 in the evening of 9 June, the ZEEWIJK ran violently onto Half Moon Reef, which skirts the western side of the Pelsaert Group, the southernmost reefs and islands of the Houtman Abrolhos.

There was never any doubt that the ship had been lost. Big waves swept the deck, 2.5 metres of water soon filled the holds, and the main mast came crashing down. With the arrival of daylight, those on board were relieved to see several islands behind the reef, but they could not leave the wreck because of the height of the surf. Six days later, they were still confined to the wreck, and by then some of the crew had broken into the liquor stores and were brought under control only under threat of death.

On the seventh day, it was decided to risk using the longboat, which was successfully launched and taken to the shallow part of the reef with twelve men. Next day, it was rowed to the nearest island (Gun Island), returning with the good news that water had been found there. The weather was fine for the following two days, and many people successfully made the trip from the wreck to the reef crest, and from there to the island. However, some refused to leave the wreck, remaining on board under precarious conditions for several months.

On 10 july, the longboat set sail for Batavia under the command of the uppersteersman, with eleven others who were generally regarded as the most capable of the seamen. They were never heard of again.


                          Webmaster T.J. Vanderveldt ©   Email: tjv@iinet.net.au