Between 1602 and 1795 the ships of the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (the V.O.C.) plied the seas between Europe and East Asia. During the 17th and 18th centuries the V.O.C. was the largest trading company in the world and had a fleet that ranged from Aden and Persia eastwards to Korea and Japan with over 250 trading stations within the network. From ports in Holland, Company vessels shipped out money and trade goods to purchase or barter for spices, sugar, cloth, silk, indigo, precious stones and porcelain. They also carried provisions and equipment for their Asian trading bases, the largest of which was Batavia (modern day Jakarta) in Java. Many of these ships never made it to their destinations. Records suggest that of the 4,789 outward voyages some 105 vessels were lost and of the 3,401 return trips a further 141 ships were lost. The remains of over 30 V.O.C. ships have been found on reefs, sandbanks, and in treacherous waters as far away as Australia, the Atlantic Islands and Indonesia.
The East Indiaman Woestduyn in 1779, stranded on shoals. From E. Hoogerheyden by A. Fokke Wzn and M. Sallieth
The V.O.C. was a non-governmental, decentralized company made up of six regional Chambers, all with their own administration, shipyards and provisioning mechanisms. The largest of these was the Amsterdam Chamber, followed by Zeeland (also known as Middleburg). Funding was secured through private investors. The connections between Europe and Asia were maintained by an estimated fleet of one hundred armed merchantmen, supplemented by the same number of smaller craft. The Asian routes were sustained by local craft under the Company flag.
These trading ships, called 'East Indiamen', were divided into classes with fixed dimensions. They were designed, built and equipped by the V.O.C. The Company maintained shipyards, and provisioning establishments in Holland and settlements and fortifications overseas. In order to maintain supremacy huge support industries were required, to facilitate the designing, building, maintenance and to supply the fleets. Dramatic changes in all of these activities reflect the pace required to maintain the power of this embryonic state within a state.
Diving the Wreck
|Current Project||The Museum|
|Wrecking of the