Dutch and British maritime archaeologists carried out a joint diving expedition at the Rooswijk wreck site off the coast of Britain in 2016. The Dutch East India Company ship was outward bound for Batavia (modern-day Jakarta) with a large cargo of silver ingots and coinage on board when it sank on the Goodwin Sands in Kent in January 1740.
Now a protected wreck site, the ship's remains are owned by the Dutch Government, and managed by Historic England on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The #Rooswijk1740 project is led and financed by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, as part of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.
The Rooswijk is threatened by currents and shifting sands and an exploratory study of the wreck last year cemented the urgent need for the current excavation. The site is classed as High Risk on the Heritage at Risk register due to its exposed remains and vulnerability.
In collaboration with Historic England and the dive contractor/ post excavation manager MSDS Marine Ltd. two seasons of excavation took place in 2017 and 2018. Historic England is providing specialists and research facilities for the post-excavation phase.
Alison James (MSDS Ltd.) who is the UK post-excavation manager for the #Rooswijk1740 project, said:
Wrecks such as the Rooswijk are time capsules that offer a unique glimpse into the past and tell a story. Sharing that story with a wide audience is a key part of this project and we look forward to the fascinating insights and discoveries that the Rooswijk excavation will uncover this summer.
Martijn Manders, Project Leader of the #Rooswijk1740 project and Maritime Heritage Programme Manager at the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, said:
The Goodwin Sands has been a treacherous place for ships throughout the centuries and is now a treasure trove for archaeologists. It is also popular with sports divers. The rapidly shifting sands mean that the site is even more exposed now than it was during our initial dives to assess the condition of the Rooswijk in September last year. This makes the excavation urgent. We are excited about this project because the Rooswijk is a showcase of modern underwater archaeology in which cooperation is essential. It provides unique opportunities for young professionals and the public to participate. A project through which we can learn about our shared past and who we are.
There are a total of 250 Dutch East India Company shipwrecks, of which only a third have been located. Never before has a Dutch East India Company wreck been scientifically researched or excavated at this scale.