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Survey ‘t Vliegent Hert (15 October 2018)

On Tuesday the 15th of October, a team consisting of Sven van Haelst from the Flanders Marine Institute (Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee), Jessica Vandevelde from the Flanders Heritage Agency (Onroerend Erfgoed) and our colleague Robert de Hoop did a survey on the Dutch East India Company ship ‘t Vliegent Hert that lies in Belgian waters.

Illustration of an East Indiaman like t'Vliegent Hert (Gemeente-archief Vlissingen).

In February 1735 the Dutch East Indiaman ‘t Vliegent Hert wrecked shortly after leaving Zeeland for Batavia (Indonesia). The three-master, roughly 44 m long and 11 m wide and armed with 42 guns, was built in 1729-1730 in Middelburg and served as a transport vessel between the Netherlands and Asia. For its second voyage to Batavia in 1735 it carried a cargo of wood, building bricks, iron, gunpowder and wine, as well as several chests with gold and silver ducats. In the afternoon of February 3rd the vessel left the port of Rammekens near Vlissingen in convoy with a smaller ship, the Anna Catharina, and a pilot boat. A few hours after leaving the port in a northeasterly gale the Anna Catharina ran aground on one of the many sandbanks in the Deurlo channel and perished. ‘t Vliegent Hert struck the same sandbank but managed to break loose with the rising tide. The damaged vessel, largely adrift, finally reached the deeper water of the Schooneveld where it dropped anchor that night. Water poured into the broken hull and soon ‘t Vliegent Hert sank too, in 18 meters water depth. In total, over 400 men were lost. Soon after the wreckage a chart was compiled by Abraham Anias, showing the location of the two wrecks.

Sven van Haelst (VLIZ) preparing the multibeam survey.

Reason for the survey was that a multibeam from a couple of months ago showed that parts of the shipwreck were uncovered. A new multibeam survey was done by the Flanders Marine Institute from RV Simon Stevin and after that a dive survey was done as well. Although the visibility underwater was zero, we did manage to confirm that parts of the shipwreck (shipwood, bricks and concretions containing metal objects) were uncovered and that the wood is being threatened as it is slowly eaten away by the Teredo Navalis, or the naval shipworm.

Positioning the Simon Stevin over the site.

One of the main goals of the Maritime Heritage program is to work together with countries to manage all Dutch shipwrecks of which the Netherlands claims ownership. Among them are the remains of the ships of the Dutch East India Company and the West Indian Companies, the admiralties and war vessels. The first step in a collaboration between Belgium and the Netherlands was made with this survey. In the coming months we will exchange knowledge about management and in situ preservation techniques and look together what measurements we can take to protect this shipwreck.

For more information on the Dutch East India Company ship t’ Vliegent Hert check out the following links:

Maritime Stepping Stones (MaSS):

In Dutch: Demerre I. & T. Missiaen, 2010: Speurtocht naar het wrak van ‘t Vliegent Hart, De Grote Rede 28: 2-8.

In English: Missiaen, T. / I. Demerre/ V. Verrijcken, 2012: Integrated assessment of the buried wreck site of the Dutch East Indiaman 't Vliegent Hart, Relicta 9, 191-208.