Batavia Shipwreck: Study of the Batavia Ship's Hull Remains

Research Projects | Updated 3 years ago

A scientist working on conservation of the Batavia hull
The Batavia
Image copyright of WA Museum

In February 2003, a project to study the archaeological hull remains of Batavia (1629) started in collaboration with the Nautical Archaeology Program of Texas A&M University in College Station (USA). This research project would involve painstaking detailed analysis of the Batavia's hull, spike by spike, hole by hole, and timber by timber.

A replica of Batavia was built in the Netherlands in the 1980s based on archival records, contemporary documentation on shipbuilding, and what was then known about the archaeological hull remains. However, Batavia's archaeological remains had yet to be fully studied – meaning the replica had been built before the conservation of the original hull had been completed.

The completion of conservation work on the Batavia's hull finally allowed detailed study to commence. Key portions of the original hull, the bow and keel for example, no longer exist, and therefore, any reconstruction of the ship will be partly conjectural.

This project was designed to contribute new and significant knowledge of shipbuilding technology in the 17th century. Batavia provides one of our earliest glimpses of a Dutch East India ship, and the analysis of its hull will be of great interest to students and scholars in the fields of nautical archaeology, naval architecture, and the history of the Dutch East India Company.

The primary research objective of the project was to produce detailed documentation of the planks and frames of Batavia. The second objective was to determine Batavia's construction sequence and assembly details - a process that culminated in the reconstruction of Batavia's original design and appearance.

The study was based primarily upon existing hull remains, although contemporary archival material was to be used for comparison. The study of the Batavia hull timbers was completed in May 2008 and the results presented in a Ph.D. dissertation (W. van Duivenvoorde, The Batavia Shipwreck: An Archaeological Study of an Early Seventeenth-Century Dutch East Indiaman. Ph.D. Dissertation, Texas A&M University, 2008).

See for related publications:
W. van Duivenvoorde. "More than Just Bits of Hull: Expensive oak, laminate construction, and goat hair. New insights on Batavia's archaeological hull remains." Tijdschrift voor Zeegeschiedenis 28.2 (2009): 59-68, 72-73. See:
W. van Duivenvoorde. "Capturing Curves and Timber with a Laser Scanner: Digital imaging of Batavia." INA Quarterly 32.3 (2005): 3-6.
W. van Duivenvoorde. "Doppelte Standards: Zweifache Beplankung im niederländischen Schiffsbau des späten 16. und frühen 17. Jahrhunderts." Skyllus, Jahrgang 2002, Heft 2 (2005): 112-122.