THE wreck of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) sailing ship ‘Zuytdorp’ is the subject of a study by the WA Museum in Geraldton.
Researchers are studying the wreck to look at the conserved remains in the hope of gaining further insights into the shipbuilding methods, and dendrochronological evidence to conclusively date pieces currently held by the museum.
Flinders University lecturer Dr Wendy Van Duivenvoorde, Netherlands Centre for Dendrochronolgy dendrochronologist Dr Marta Dominguez Delmas and John Carpenter from the West Australian Museum will be conducting the research.
They hope to compare the wreck fragmentary held by the WA museum to an existing database of trees and their rings from Europe.
Dr Dominguez Delmas says, “the first step is to retrieve the tree ring patterns and to compare that count with the reference chronologies for pine, all over Europe’
Computed tomography (CT) scans of wreck fragmentary was able to further highlight the rings however a higher resolution is needed to be conclusive. A series of 100 consecutive rings must be in a pattern for comparisons to be made.
Once her work in the Mid West is complete, her results will be put through specialised software that is able to check ring patterns with other known examples.
In conjunction with her Australian colleagues they all hope to come up with a more complete picture of the history of VOC ships and their relationship with Western Australia.
Zuytdorp was built in the VOC Zeeland shipyard and launched in 1701.
The ship was wrecked on the third voyage to the East Indies (Indonesia) in 1712 at the base of the cliffs between Kalbarri and Shark bay.
Pieces of the ship have washed ashore and been reported since 1927 but the wreck location was only sighted by an official expedition in 1954.
The VOC was one of the first multi-national companies and as such they kept shipbuilding techniques as commercial secrets. This has meant there are few records of exactly how their ships were constructed and it is only by the study of wrecks that this information can be gleaned.