Wreck of the Zuytdorp in June 1712 – Phillip Playford

Video | Updated 3 years ago

The Zuytdorp, one of the great ships of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), disappeared after leaving the Cape of Good Hope in April 1712. Its wreck was found by Tom Pepper in 1927 and was positively identified as that of the Zuytdorp by Phil Playford in 1958.

The third and final voyage of the Zuytdorp had been disastrous long before it was wrecked at the foot of towering cliffs south of Shark Bay.  When the ship had reached the Cape of Good Hope it had already lost 112 of the 286 people who had sailed from the Netherlands. The wreck was identified through coins that it carried, valued at about 250 000 guilders, which went down with the ship forming a 'carpet of silver' on the sea floor.

Rangelands Natural Resource Management is the Presenting Partner of the 2014 In the Wild West series.

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The wreck of the Zuytdorp in June 1712 - Dr Phillip Playford

Leigh O'Brien: Welcome everybody. Good evening. My name is Leigh O'Brien. I'm the Acting Regional Manager here at the Western Australian Museum, Geraldton. I'd like to begin as we always do, by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet tonight, the Yamaji people, and pay my respects to their elders past and present. On behalf of the Western Australian Museum I would like to acknowledge the generous support of Rangelands Natural Resource Management as the presenting partner of the 2014 In the Wild West lecture series. Rangelands NRM operates across 85% of Western Australia and is responsible for the establishment, management, evaluation and communication of many natural resource management activities and projects in these regions, and as such, there is strong synergy between Rangelands NRM and the Western Australian Museum. Both organisations seek to understand and preserve our unique environment for future generations.

I would now like to introduce our very special guest speaker tonight, Dr Phil Playford, renowned Geologist and Historian who identified the Zuytdorp wreck. This week, in fact I think it's tomorrow, marks the 60th anniversary of when Dr Playford first visited the Zuytdorp wreck site and so it is a fitting time to reflect and to discuss this important Dutch shipwreck. Phil Playford was born in Western Australia and educated at the University of Western Australia, and his PhD was at Stanford University. He has published more than 100 articles and five books, and received a Premier's Book Award for his book on the Zuytdorp, Carpet of Silver. He is a member of the Order of Australia for his contributions to the geology and history of Australia and we are delighted that he's here with us tonight. Please join me in welcoming Dr Phil Playford.

Audience applause

Dr Playford: Well thank you for the invitation to address you here tonight. I always like coming back to Geraldton. It was in the Geraldton area that I first began my career as a Geologist working on Moonyoonooka Station and around Bringo - I don't know whether any of you know those places – but I always like coming back to Geraldton.

Well, as Leigh mentioned, it's 60 years since I first became involved in the Zuytdorp wreck. I was then working for WAPET, West Australian Petroleum, and the first task we had then was to study the geology of the Shark Bay area. We were camped at Hamelin Pool and it was there that I first found the stromatolites that are now famous in that area.

Anyway, at the end of July we moved to Tamala Station and it was there that I met up with an elderly stockman, or at least I thought he was elderly … he was 54 in fact which is very young from my point of view now, but anyway, he told me a lot of stories about the early days on Murchison House in Tamala and one day produced a grubby flour bag with a whole lot of relics in it and he showed me these coins and various other bits and pieces. I noticed that several of the coins had the name "Zeeland" on which is a province of Holland, and the date 1711. So I was pretty sure that this was the wreck of a Dutch ship.

Anyway, I got approximate directions from Tom and set off one day on the 1st of August of that year and drove down the old stock route to Murchison House for quite a way, counting the rain sheds as I went until I came to the fifth of them I think it was, and then there was an old fence that had been abandoned in the 1920s which headed for the coast, and I drove along that as far as I could until I came to a dense tea tree scrub and had to make a decision whether to push through that. We had just put scrub bars on the Land Rover. So, I was my own of course, headed into this dense scrub until I could get no further and put up my Flying Doctor aerial with a bag tied on, a sample bag on the top so I could see it flapping in the wind, otherwise I mightn't have been able to find it when I came back.

So I head off about a kilometre to the coast and walked north for a couple of kilometres without seeing anything. By the time I got back to where I’d turned off it was about 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon and I knew that I wouldn't get back to Tamala until after 9:00 o'clock at night, but I decided to have a look to the south, and I only went about 200 metres.  Down at the foot of the cliffs I could see all this timber lying there, and I thought "This has to be the wreck site." So I climbed down the cliff with mounting excitement and found a couple of coins at the base of the cliff and a sailor's belt buckle and noticed at the top of the cliff there were a lot of broken bottles there, and I knew this had to be the site of the wreck.

I went back to Perth later that month and arranged with Malcolm Uren of the WA Newspapers for an expedition to go to the site to investigate this wreck. And while I was down in Perth I also consulted the Batty Library and it showed that there were four Dutch ships that had disappeared that were unknown what had happened to them after leaving Cape Town or Cape of Good Hope as it was then. And I saw that one of these ships was named the Zuytdorp and it had left the Cape of Good Hope at the beginning of August in 1712, so I was pretty confident that this had to be the Zuytdorp. Anyway, we had a wonderful expedition of the site, found a lot of material, found where the survivors had come ashore, the ashes of this huge fire that they'd lit on the cliff top and where they'd camped etcetera, and it was very exciting.

And after that I started a long correspondence with museums and archives in the Netherlands, at Cape Town and Jakarta and was able to prove without doubt that this had to be the wreck of the Zuytdorp and the key being the coins, and I'll say a bit more about that later.

Then we had a second expedition there four years later, again financed by WA Newspapers and it was then that I first published an article on the wreck of the Zuytdorp in the Journal of the Historical Society – Royal WA Historical Society. Then again, I started up further work on it when the Museum was doing exploration of the shipwreck. Mike McCarthy asked me if I'd like to join them with this which I did, and the result of all that was eventually the publication of my book on the wreck of the Zuytdorp called Carpet of Silver and it's available if any of you want to buy it. It's gone to three editions. This is the third edition.

[See screen slide]First of all, regarding the Netherlands at that time. This shows the original Netherlands was governed by Spain. The area now occupied by Belgium was part of the Netherlands and so was what is the Dutch Republic. But the Dutch Republic were converted to the Dutch Reformed Church and they broke away from the Catholic south and established their own country up here, and they became the strongest country in the world largely through their trading activities. They were wealthier than any country, they had the best navy of any country and most of their wealth flowed from their trade with Asia.

Well the Zuytdorp was one of the great ships of the Company. It's named after this village of Zuytdorp which means 'South Village' at the southern end of the Dutch Republic. Talking about the Republic, at that time they were the only Republic in Europe. All the others were monarchies and the Dutch were very unpopular with everyone really, but they didn't mind about that. They were doing very nicely thank you.

[See screen slide]And the Zuytdorp belonged to what was called the "Chamber of Zeeland" which was this country around here. Merchants from that area funded the voyage of the Zuytdorp and others. The Zuytdorp itself was one of the largest ships of the Dutch-East India Company. It was a flagship ship of the Dutch-East India Company. It was built in 1700.

[See screen slide]Well, this is just a slide to illustrate that the Dutch were not only preeminent in commerce, they were also the greatest artists of the world at that time and they speak of this time as being the "Golden Age of the Netherlands" when they had these wonderful painters that I'm sure you all know of, and many of their paintings feature the ships on which their wealth was based.

[See screen slide]The first Dutch expedition to what is now the – well it was then called the Dutch-East Indies.  The first trip was in 1595 when four Dutch ships following the route that had been pioneered by the Portuguese, sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and straight across the Indian Ocean and they signed a treaty with one of the rulers in the East Indies and that started the Dutch trade. At that time they used this route which was the Portuguese route, straight across the Indian Ocean.

[See screen slide]But one of the Dutch skippers, Hendrik Brouwer, decided that he would try a new route to the Indies and he sailed due east with the prevailing westerly winds, the Roaring Forties, before heading north to Sunda Straits and through to Batavia, now Jakarta. And after he reported this voyage back in the Netherlands, the sailing instructions were changed so that Dutch ships were instructed to follow this route to the Indies.

[See screen slide]Well the first - it was inevitable that one of the Dutch would eventually sail too far to the east because they couldn't calculate longitude at all accurately at that time - it was just by dead reckoning - and the first to go too far to the east was Dirk Hartog in the Eendracht on the 25th of October, 1616. He came ashore and you can see just where he came ashore, exactly where he climbed the cliff. There's only one place you can get across the cliff top, just here, and just at the top there was a crack in the rock where he put up a post with a flattened pewter plate on which he inscribed a record of his visit.  

[See screen slide]This is Dirk Hartog's plate and this is the actual inscription. It says "1616, the 25th of October is here arrived the ship, the Eendracht of Amsterdam, the upper steersman, Gilles Miebais of Liege, skipper Dirk Hartog of Amsterdam. The 27th ditto," that's the same month, "set sail again for Bantum," which was one of the places in the Indies. And underneath – this was all deeply inscribed into the plate, this upper part, but underneath, scratched in the surface, probably with the point of a knife, it said "The under steersman, Jan Stins," no, "The under merchant Jan Stins, the upper steersman Pieter Doores van Bil." Well what I think happened was, they were sent to go ashore and put up the plate and they said "Our names should be on that too," so they scratched it on.

[See screen slide]This photo I've taken is an exact replica of the Dirk Hartog plate which is in the Historical Society in the Netherlands. It was obtained in 1938 and at that time the plate was still in good condition. If you had an equivalent photo of it today, it's very hard to make out a lot of this. So, the best version of the Dirk Hartog plate is in Western Australia.

[See screen slide]Well as a result of Dirk Hartog's discovery and the next 18 years, a whole series of Dutch ships encountered the Australian coast and mapped all this area right across as far as present South Australia and up to the Pilbara, and they named this the "Land of the Eendracht" because that was the name of Dirk Hartog's ship. Ten years before the Duyfken had sailed along Cape York peninsula, the west side of Cape York peninsula, but they didn't realise it was part of a great continent and on their map they labelled it "New Guinea". They thought it was part of New Guinea whereas Dirk Hartog's discovery had an immediate impact around the world.

[See screen slide]And as a result of Dirk Hartog's discovery, the sailing instructions were changed so that during the period from March to September, the Dutch ships were told to sail to the north east and that they could sail within site of the Land of the Eendracht before heading up to Batavia and that was the quickest route at that time. On the other hand, in the summer months, October to February they were to follow the original Brouwer route.

[See screen slide]Well, it was again inevitable that some Dutch ships would eventually be wrecked on this forbidding coast. The first of course was the Batavia in 1629 and it's wonderful to be standing beside this portico that the Batavia was carrying to Batavia. Anyway, after the Batavia, the next was the Gilt Dragon, the Vergulde Draeck in 1656, not far north of Perth. Then the next was the Zuytdorp. Incidentally notice the pronunciation is zout-dorp, zout-dorp, in 1712.

The Zuytdorp was the only one from which no survivors ever got back to civilisation. They just totally disappeared. The Zuytdorp was the first of the Dutch wrecks to be found in Western Australia and also the first to be identified in Western Australia. The Gilt Dragon site was found later, about 10 years later and the Batavia and the Zeewijk was the last known one here in 1727. Of course both the Batavia and the Zeewijk and also the Gilt Dragon, survivors got back – reached Batavia and told the story of the wreck, and in the case of the Batavia, came down and rescued some of the survivors of the massacre that occurred there and I'm sure you all know about that.

[See screen slide]Well this is the Zuytdorp wreck site. It's mid-way between Kalbarri and Tamala, at the foot of forbidding cliffs here known as – which I named the Zuytdorp Cliffs. When I was first there in 1954 it was the only part of the Australian Coast that was still shown as a dotted line on maps of Australia because it was little known. Hardly anyone had been there at that time at all and people from the seaward side were not game to come any closer to these forbidding cliffs, so it was still a dotted line.  But once we had air photos of course, it could be accurately mapped.

[See screen slide]Well this is a model of the Zuytdorp, one of the great ships of the Dutch East-India Company. This was made by Dr Case de Heer, we call it of Jim de Heer, who was an amazing person. He did all the translating for my work that I've done on the Zuytdorp and also on Willem de Vlamingh and he was a brilliant artist and he made this replica of the Zuytdorp using some of the timber that I brought from the actual wreck so that this model of the Zuytdorp is made largely from material from the ship.

[See screen slide]Well, the Zuytdorp left Vlissingen in the Netherlands in July of 1711 together with another ship, the Bellevliet which was also owned by the Chamber of Zeeland, and they sailed together all the way down here until past the Equator when they separated. But it was an absolutely disastrous voyage. The Zuytdorp left the Netherlands with 286 people on board – you know – this is jammed into a boat that's about like a Rottnest ferry really, but they soon got scurvy and died like flies. This shows the actual deaths that occurred on the Bellevliet because we got the log of the Bellevliet whereas the log of the Zuytdorp of course was lost with the ship, but they had progressive people dying on the way and then they decided against the regulations to sail into the Gulf of Guinea and there they must have contracted Malaria and there were a huge number of deaths here so that by the time they got to the Cape of Good Hope, the Bellevliet which was a much smaller vessel, had lost 60 of its crew whereas the Zuytdorp had lost 112.

At the Cape the Zuytdorp took on additional crew from other ships and made up the numbers on the ship. When it left the Cape heading towards the Land of the Eendracht it had 200 people on board and this was a quick crossing across the Indian Ocean. Probably all of those were alive until they actually struck the coast there.

[See screen slide]We don't know the names of the seamen, but we do know the names of the officers and soldiers. They had soldiers on board who were responsible for looking after the guns. They had to have guns on the boat in the case of their encountering French or Spanish or English, but they had to be able to defend themselves, and the Zuytdorp had 40 cannon on board and the soldiers were responsible for that. Also, the soldiers went on the Batavia to protect the Company's investment in the Indies. There shows the spelling Zuytdorp, but spelling varied a great deal. There are about four different versions of the spelling, but the most common spelling is Z U Y T D O R P.   

[See screen slide]This just illustrates that, the way, even within one document by exactly the same person writing it, you'd get this range of spellings.

[See screen slide]Well this is the site of the Zuytdorp. You can get the scale of this from that man who's standing there, that person there. The ship itself came ashore here right against the foot of the cliffs and you can see that it's the open, the Indian Ocean, deep Indian Ocean comes almost to the foot of the cliffs. This line of cliffs is in fact, a fault line scarp. It's like a fault scarp, very straight.  You can see there the blowholes blowing there.

[See screen slide]And there's another view looking down towards Kalbarri.

[See screen slide]And this just shows you how straight that coastline of the Zuytdorp Cliffs is. This is a fault. It's moved in relatively recent times. There must have been very strong earthquake activity along there some 10,000 years or more ago.

[See screen slide]And this is a closer view which I took flying up from Kalbarri and this is exactly where we climbed the cliff, just straight up here to the top. It's a relatively easy climb and of all the places along the cliffs where they came ashore, it was one of the places that they could most readily climb to the cliff top. At the cliff top they lit a huge fire. The ashes of it were still under the sand there and in the ashes of this fire there were pieces of chests that had obviously been thrown onto the bonfire, and I think the purpose of this was to signal another ship which would have – they would be able to see far out to sea and try to signal that they were here, but they didn't succeed. But they did drink a lot of rum here. Their were broken bottles were still lying there after all, from 1712 which is interesting in itself because it indicates that Aborigines did not continue to come to the site because Aborigines prized glass, any glass, because it was much better for cutting into kangaroos and so on than chips of rock, and Tom Pepper said that when he first went to Murchison House in Tamala, this was a place that was taboo to the Aborigines. They wouldn't go near there. No doubt they thought of the spirits of all these people who died there.

[See screen slide]We don't know how many got ashore. This is one of these broken bottles, a gin bottle. This is the coin that I found there dated 1711. These are the things that I picked up on my very first trip there. I was only able to spend about half an hour at the site and I didn't get back to Tamala 'til 10:00 o'clock at night and everyone was then in a state of panic. They thought I'd disappeared out there. I remember Mrs Pepper was berating Tom saying "Why did you let that young fellow go to that dreadful place?" you know. Anyway, it was a great adventure.

[See screen slide]This is the members of the first expedition to the site. The WA Newspapers photographer Todge Campbell, Tom Pepper, Mrs Pepper, Lurlie Pepper. This is James Carruthers, Sir James Carruthers he is now. He's still alive and he was the one that wrote the articles for the Daily News.

[See screen slide]This is where we camped and this – when we came in here they came up from Perth with two vehicles. One was a Land Rover which had no trouble – I had no trouble getting there – but the other was a two-wheel drive vehicle and of course we bogged it very early and we had to ferry people there and we had to leave a lot of equipment. So we built this table and chairs largely with material from the Zuytdorp. I was a bit upset about this actually and when we left I scrubbed them all clean and put them back at the foot of the cliffs. Of course there's none of them there now.

[See screen slide]That's me and this was the biggest piece of timber at the site. This is a spar. This is about seven metres long. It would be a spar carrying the sails and big pieces of mast and so on.

[See screen slide]This just is me when I was really young – 22 – with a handful of coins.

[See screen slide]And this was another thing found at the site. That's Jim Carruthers. These are breach blocks of cannon. There's one on display along here from the Zuytdorp. There were about eight of these piled together at the foot of the cliffs and most of them had been taken away, but we found this one on the trip. These were breach blocks which went into cannon and they were already charged with gunpowder and they were for rapid fire … you could quickly lock one into place and but a cannonball in front of it and off you'd go and then get another one. So, they were designed for quick fire and they were mounted on the stern of the vessel. And I think what happened was they probably hoped to take off one of these small cannon and if they had both lit this fire on top of the cliff and fired the cannon, then a following vessel would have known that it was a Dutch ship that was here. But they didn't succeed in getting the cannon ashore, only the breach blocks.

[See screen slide]And this just shows you where these cannon – these quick fire cannon were mounted on the stern of the ship. This is a model of the Patmos and Blijdorp ships that were built the same time as the Zuytdorp. This one's from the Prins Hendrik Museum in the Netherlands.

[See screen slide]This just shows that particular model of the Blijdorp and the Patmos, twin ships. This is the captain's cabin at the base here and below the captain's cabin or below it are these figures of women. They're shown as their head in the air and they're shown as being pregnant which was regarded as good luck at that time, and that was the biggest single item that was discovered at the wreck site.

[See screen slide]I'll show that in a minute. This is also found where the breach blocks were was this which is a pair of cannonball callipers. Half of it's missing here, but that was to get the size - there were a whole series of different cannon on the ship with different size cannon shot and they had to actually determine that with the cannonball callipers. This is a set square which is divided. The divisions along here are probably ten Dutch miles and then there are ten subdivisions down here, each one being a Dutch mile.

[See screen slide]This is where when I first – this is where I stopped the vehicle just near here when I came the very first time, and I walked down to the coast alongside this creek. You can see it's very dense scrub. But while I was going along here I noticed all these barrel rungs lying on the slope and I thought "Oh well, Tom Pepper must have drawn a barrel here," but when we were on the expedition I said to Tom, "Did you come down here with a barrel?" and he said "No, never brought a barrel." I said "By heavens, that must be the survivors."

Anyway, we went back and collected the barrel rungs and then on top of the cliff just here, this little cliff, [See screen slide] there was a clear area where there were no trees growing and we found lots of pieces of clay pipes and knives and all sorts of things and clearly it was a place where the survivors had stayed and there were rock holes there that would have collected water. As soon as they lit fires the Aborigines would undoubtedly have come to see what was going on and provided the Dutch did not act aggressively towards the Aborigines, I think they would have been prepared to take them to places where they could get water, and I think that that almost certainly occurred as I'll say later.

[See screen slide]This just is a photo of Tom with the barrel rungs. Here are these barrel rungs. It's incredible that they could have been there from 1712 right through to 1954. There are iron barrel rungs, but they survived. There's no doubt about it. You could see the actual hammer marks how these barrel rungs were made.

[See screen slide]And these are some of the clay pipes. I sent photos of them. One of them had the name 'Auffenberg' on and I sent photos of these to the Netherlands and they identified them as being clay pipes that were made in the early part of the 18th Century.

[See screen slide]Well these are the key coins. These are called Schellingen and they had the name "Zeeland" on and the date 1711 and also the coat of arms here of the province of Zeeland and on this side there was a lion with the staff, holding a staff in the air with a hat on top. Apparently this was just a symbol that they had in Zeeland at that time.

[See screen slide]These ones below are Double Stuivers, two penny pieces if you like, again with "Zeeland" on or "Zeelandia" the Latin equivalent, the date 1711 and the mark of the Middleburg mint where they were minted in Zeeland. Anyway, I wrote to the Netherlands about this and it turned out that the records of the Middelburg mint for 1711 were still extant and they showed that the total minting of these coins, the Schellingen and double Stuivers in that year, were sent to Batavia in two ships … the Zuytdorp and the Bellevliet. The Bellevliet got through. The Zuytdorp disappeared, so there was absolutely no doubt this was the ship.

[See screen slide]And this was my first publication for the Historical Society on the wreck of the Zuytdorp. That was reprinted about 10 times I think. It only went out of print when I published the book, the next book.

[See screen slide]Well, for people of Geraldton, this is their close connection. This is Max Cramer and Graham Cramer and Tom – yeah, Tom Brady. I don't know whether any of you know Tom Brady, do you? Yes, anyway, they were the first people to ever dive on the site. The time when I was there it was always too rough you couldn’t get into the water, but they went there on a dead calm day and they dived and saw all the cannon and the anchors and so on, but they also saw this mass of coins on the sea floor which became known as the Carpet of Silver but they didn't report it when they came back. They kept it quiet, the fact they'd seen all this and it wasn't disclosed until some years later when another diver - what's his name - Alan Robinson – you've all heard of Alan Robinson, I'm sure. He was a famous or some would say "infamous" diver who was inclined to use dynamite and so on, on wrecks.

Anyway, he came back and announced to the press that he'd found this mass of silver coins. Well then the others then owned up that they'd in fact seen it. Well, the Museum then started diving on the wreck themselves and recovered thousands of coins from there, but most of the coins I believe from there have been looted over the years. Very difficult to prevent looting occurring.

[See screen slide]This shows Mike McCarthy going into the water. They were very courageous the divers from the Museum, of jumping in there when I would certainly never have dared to go in, but they found that the best way to dive on the wreck was in fact to bring up a boat from – to come up by boat, a fast boat from Kalbarri and dive from the sea side rather than going in from the land which was very hazardous.

[See screen slide]This shows on the sea floor where the bottom was first ripped out of the ship as it was being driven ashore - the ballast from the ship which was lead ingots lying on the sea floor and most of them are still there today, great big masses of lead.

[See screen slide]And this is what I think happened. The ship was coming, or a guess, I'm just guessing that it was heading due east. It hit the bottom very close to the cliffs and it was then slewed around.  It was then slewed around as you can see there. The bottom was ripped out of the ship and the lead ingots were on the bottom. Then it was driven ashore and I believe it broke into three large pieces of wreck with all the cannon on that part of the ship which went to the bottom, and all those anchors, and most of those are still there today. The Museum salvaged one of the iron cannon and one huge anchor from the ship which you can see in the Museum in Fremantle.

[See screen slide]This is what the site looks like. You can see how there's this white water there. It's very turbulent, very dangerous. Well you would never attempt to dive there when the conditions were like that, today.  That rock there is what's termed "Coin Rock".  The Carpet of Silver was on the north side of that. The silver would have been carried in chests, carried in the Captain's cabin and when the ship was wrecked, these very strong chests would have gone straight to the bottom and they must have held together for a long time, long enough for the coins to be cemented by lime, so they were preserved as this Carpet of Silver on the sea floor.

[See screen slide]This just shows I was a bit silly in those days. I went down one of these blowholes, went down to the bottom of a blowhole there.

[See screen slide]There it is. You can see how the – when the waves come in, the water rises and blows out the top. Anyway, I managed to convince the photographer to come down and take a photo there.

[See screen slide]This is the – they called it "The Figurehead" but it wasn't. It was from the stern of the vessel and this is a woman's figure with a face very clear here, with her head turned back and her bust was in the form of a lion's head and she was shown as pregnant, but here, where it was nailed to the ship, the remains of the nails were still there.  They were completely oxidised of course, but it's the only extant carving from a Dutch ship of that time anywhere in the world and to think that that stayed there from 1712 right through to 1939 when Tom Pepper took it away. He took it back to Gee Gie outcamp where he was staying with his wife and rolled it in a sheet and put it under the bed there, and Mrs Pepper didn't like this at all.  [Laughter]

So, some years later he had it brought it in to Moonyoonooka where his sister lived. It was there for many years, but was eventually brought down and I think the original is here in this Museum and a replica is in the Maritime Museum in – there it is. There it is, yes. There it is. There it is. Have a good look at … It's an amazing relic to think that that could have survived all that time there. I think that it must have been carried to the site by a survivor because it could not have been washed there as it would have been severely damaged by the jagged rocks there.

[See screen slide]This is the Carpet of Silver, just masses and masses of silver.

[See screen slide]And this is how they were cemented together. See there's a Schellingen, 1711, and they're all stacked together just as they were in the original chests.

[See screen slide]And this shows the range of coins that were found there. That's a Schelling and Double Stuivers, but also big coins, Ducatons, Ducats, and Pieces of Eight. This is a Piece of Eight here, Piece of Eight there. Pieces of Eight were Spanish coins that were international currency at that time.

[See screen slide]And that just shows one of the Ducatons, a Ducat dated 1711. So it was a newly-minted coin then.

[See screen slide]This was the most amazing relic found on the sea floor there under that white water. It's a glass, a wine glass which was cemented into the sea floor and was recovered there by the Museum team. It's the most amazing thing that it could have stayed there all that time.

Audience Member: It's just on display over there.

Dr Playford: It's over there too is it? Right, okay.

[See screen slide]And this just shows one of the anchors. There are a whole lot of anchors that are still there.

[See screen slide]Well this is a story. When the Museum learned about the Carpet of Silver they said this had to be protected. So they put what they termed a "watch keeper", a warden as it were, to live at the site, just inland from the site, just about at the place where I turned around originally and he had a caravan, and he went into Kalbarri one day to have his vehicle serviced and when he drove back the next day, this is what greeted him. It was burnt out and there were a stack of the petrol containers were stacked up there. Someone had poured petrol over the whole thing and set it alight and as a result the Museum decided it was too hot to handle really and they withdrew their watch keeper.

I asked the CIB if I could see the file on this which eventually amazingly enough they gave me the whole file on it, and it showed that very few people had been interviewed and the person who I would have regarded as the prime suspect was not even spoken to, but I won't say who that is.

[See screen slide]Some of you may know this chap, Dom Lamera. Does anyone know Dom Lamera? Yeah, well he was an abalone diver along there and after the caravan was burnt out, he offered his services to be the watch keeper at the site and he was paid for I think, two or three days and he constructed this little hut at the site and used to go there abalone diving and report regularly to the museum on the weather conditions and so on.

[See screen slide]He was quite an artistic person. These are all ripped bottle tops from beer and there were thousands of them there, all joined together in this artistic arrangement.

[See screen slide]This is just a map to show the original stock route down here that I followed past Ramyard Shed and through to the Zuytdorp wreck. Most of these tracks have virtually disappeared. You can't find the stock route at all now.

[See screen slide]Now, when I decided that it was likely that Aborigines would have contacted the Dutch people, the largest encampment of Aborigines at that time in the vicinity of the wreck was at this locality which is Wale Well on Tamala Station which is 50 kilometres north of the wreck site and when I first went there, there were a lot of Aboriginal artefacts scattered all around here - grinding stones and so on – and we went there with metal detectors and went all over the site in some detail.

[See screen slide]And this is Tony Cockbain, a friend of mine who gave assistance and he got a very strong signal at one point and told me, and I came over and I dug down where it was, and this is what we found. It's a brass tobacco box lid.

[See screen slide]And this is the brass tobacco box lid which has the name, Leiden. It's L E and then the rest is spelled out – Leiden which is a Dutch city. It's certainly Dutch and it came - and it had a depiction of the town itself there on it, inscribed. It's quite a delicate thing. It's only thin brass and I think it had to have been carried there by a survivor. If it had been carried by Aborigines there I think it would have been damaged, but it wasn't at all damaged.

[See screen slide]And this just shows for comparison. That's just my drawing of the actual tobacco box lid. This is a part of a tobacco box lid on the wreck of the Zeewijk of 1727. Identical. Made by the same people. It proves that it's Dutch and of about the same time.

[See screen slide]Well, near Wale Well there is an Aboriginal burial ground there and lots of Aboriginal skeletons have been found there, but there's no sign of any European burial. Although most of the people probably went down with the ship, some of those that got ashore would have been in a bad way I think, and certainly some of them must have died and been buried somewhere, but we've never found the place where they were buried.

[See screen slide]Just one other little interesting thing is this is the Zuytdorp wreck site here and there's the Murchison River, and immediately east of the wreck site on the Sanford River near Cue is a place called Walga Rock. And at Walga Rock there's this painting - next slide -

[See screen slide]– which has always puzzled people, but it shows obviously a sailing ship, or the remains of a sailing ship, with what I think are gunports along the side and underneath is this, it can only be called pseudo-writing. It looks as though it's writing, but it's not really.

[See screen slide]It's just someone pretending to write there. None of this makes any sense at all. And one theory – I mean I don't honestly know how it got there. It could be a hoax or it could be a genuine thing – it might have been that it was one of the offspring of one of the Dutch survivors who had told the child how he'd come to the shore here and also wrote something. So he'd seen writing and had seen a sketch of the ship, and might have put it up there. It's an enduring mystery.

[See screen slide]Well, here we are. This is this feature that we see behind us and this is the certificate that was handed out to the finders of the Zuytdorp and I was identified as one of the primary discoverers. Other discoverers were Tom Pepper, Mrs Ada Drage.  Mrs Ada Drage was the sister of Tom Pepper's wife and quite a number of people have claimed that in fact, she found the wreck before Tom and it's a very contentious debate.

I never did meet Ada Drage. She was still alive when I first went there but I had never heard that there was any dispute about it, but some of her descendants claim that she found them, whereas Tom Pepper said that on his way he'd found it when he was tracking a dingo along the coast and after he had successfully completed that he went through their camp - they were camped not far away - and told them about the wreck site.

Anyway, we can't really prove it one way or another but the Committee of Inquiry of the Upper House decided to name the discoverers of all the Dutch wrecks on our coast and they decided that Tom Pepper and Phil Playford were to be regarded as primary discoverers of the Zuytdorp and Mrs Ada Drage and Messrs Cramer - Max Cramer, Graham Cramer and Tom Brady were to be regarded as secondary discoverers.

[See screen slide]And that's the book that I published on – it was the first edition. It's been reprinted twice since then.

[See screen slide]I've also done quite a lot of work on Willem de Vlamingh and published this book on Voyage of Discovery to Terra Australis by Willem de Vlamingh. This is a beautiful map which was produced on the voyage and there it is. It's still in perfect condition in the Netherlands.

[See screen slide]Well this is just for any of you who may remember me at Moonyoonooka and Bringo. This is at Bringo which doesn't exist anymore, but I did a lot of geological work from there.

Anyway, thanks for your attention.

Audience applause

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