The maritime heritage is all the heritage associated with water – all cultural remains, on and under the water and on land.
Our cultural heritage under water is just part of the entire maritime cultural heritage. It consists not only of sunken shipwrecks, but also of harbours, quays, bridges, waterways and even warehouses. These are all associated with our maritime history of trade, expansion and warfare. Besides the maritime heritage, the cultural heritage under water also includes prehistoric sites and sunken villages.
Given our maritime history, a significant proportion of our buried history is under water. But thanks to the creation of polders, some of it is now back on land. The polders of Flevoland province contain the world’s largest ever ships’ graveyard.
The maritime history that is so important to the Netherlands also has international significance. Ships carried their cargoes from country to country, battles were fought at sea. Every year, Dutch shipwrecks are found in other countries, both within Europe and beyond. We are dependent on other countries for the management of these wrecks, just as they depend on us for the protection of their heritage on Dutch territory. Dutch waters contain the wrecks of ships from Sweden, Britain, Germany, Denmark and France. They are just as much a part of the Netherlands’s heritage as of that of their country of origin. Increasingly, this common cultural heritage is managed and made accessible in consultation with the countries concerned.
The website www.verganeschepen.nl has a map showing a selection of the 400 or so ships that used to sail the Zuyder Zee. They were found when the land was reclaimed to create the Flevopolder.
The Batavia Yard, with a replica of the Dutch East Indiaman Batavia, is situated next to the maritime depot in Lelystad.