Basic Site Facts
Period: post medieval (1749)
Location: Bulverhythe, near Hastings
Wreck History and Loss
The ship was built in Amsterdam in 1748. She was 150ft long, had 54 guns on upper and lower gun decks; as well as a long quarter deck, a short poop deck and a forecastle.
She sailed from Texel for Java on 8 January 1749 under the command of Willem Klump, in a convoy of five other ships. She carried a mixed cargo to Batavia in Java including 28 chests of silver bars and ducatons, cloth and crates of wine, and provisions for 335 people on board. These people comprised 204 crew, 128 military and three passengers.
On the 26 January 1749 the 'Amsterdam' was beached at Bulverhythe after the crew mutinied. During her short voyage 50 people had died and 40 more were sick or dying from an unknown disease - possibly yellow fever.
Discovery and Investigation
The presence of a large wreck buried in the sand at Hastings was known to many people, but it was not until the site was damaged by a mechanical excavator in 1969 that it came to wider notice. As a result of this interference, Peter Marsden undertook preliminary pre-disturbance work on the site and established the ship’s identity, and later applied for designation. Dutch interest in the site grew to such an extent that in 1975 the VOC-Ship Amsterdam Foundation was formed in order to study the site further and, in particular, to assess the feasibility of raising the hull and returning it to Amsterdam.
Under licence, the Foundation began a programme of excavation and site protection in 1984, initially under the direction of Peter Marsden and more recently, of Jerzy Gawronski and Jon Adams.
In 1984, at the beginning of the investigations sponsored by the Amsterdam Foundation, a U-shaped cofferdam was positioned around the seaward end of the wreck to prevent the pressure of sand crushing the wreck during excavation. A permanent diving platform was also erected on the seabed.
So far excavation has concentrated on removing sediment layers disturbed by the mechanical excavator, removing stratigraphy in the stern, and strengthening the hull as deposits are removed from both inside and outside the hull.
In 1999, the ADU found that girders had worked loose, leaving a crossbeam close to collapse, which they recommended be removed. This unfortunately was typical of the whole protective cofferdam - the permanent diving platform had been removed in 1990 after also becoming loose and unsafe.
The ship is a very well preserved example of a Dutch East Indiaman, with the timber hull still surviving to the lower gun decks, and a wide array of artefacts surviving; even a book has been recovered.
In 1969 W. Press and Sons used mechanical excavators at low tide and brought up parts of the ship and her armament (bronze cannons), ship's stores, official East India Company equipment, personal belongings and cargo.
As part of the exemplary excavations carried out through the 1980s by the VOC-Ship Amsterdam Foundation, the following remains have been recorded: mammalian, bird and fish bones; wine bottles; textiles; ceramics; the ship's construction; and human bones (the cabin boy). Analysis of organic samples and wooden remains has also been undertaken. A collection of finds is in the Hastings Shipwreck Museum.
The ship itself is heeled over at 18° to port. The surviving length of the ship from the foremost surviving part of the stem to the surviving after side of the counter at the stern is 44m. About two thirds of the 'Amsterdam' seems to survive in the beach, and it is possible to reconstruct the upper deck from the remaining deck beams and knees. However, the iron bolts that hold the ship's timbers together have corroded away. Gawronski, J., et al, (eds.), 1985, VOC Schip Amsterdam 1984. Report of the VOC-ship Amsterdam Foundation, 1984. Stichting VOC Schip Amsterdam, Amsterdam.
The wreck is buried in the beach 4.5km west of Hastings. The ship is aligned NW-SE with her bow facing the shore and lies at 7m depth at mean high water. The wreck is sunk into a thick bed of grey clay which overlies rock, and is filled with silty sand. Geological surveys of the site in 1975 and 1980 carried out by the Delft Soil Mechanics Laboratory show that above the grey clay, and around the wreck, is exposed the remains of a submerged prehistoric forest that was carbon dated in 2007 to about 2000BC.
A survey of sediment levels across the site of the Amsterdam was undertaken in 1991. Survey work took place at low water and only when there was sufficient light for optical levelling. Levels were taken on a transect running along the centre of the site and along lateral transects across the centre line. Additional spot levels were also taken. The data was processed with the aid of digital ground modelling software and a representation of the relative sediment levels in the area was established. The software will allow future surveys to be compared against the present data and so quantify any changes in sediment level. The survey was related to the same Ordnance Survey benchmark as used for previous survey work on the site by the Amsterdam Foundation.
VOC-ship-Amsterdam webcam is now live
Linked with kind permission of the VOC-Ship Amsterdam Foundation.
VOC Amsterdam Life Cam
Keep in mind that the Amsterdam itself will only be visible at spring low tides during daylight hours.
The next times this might (weather depending) occur are:
31/10 16.49 1.1m
01/11 17.31 0.8m
03/11 06.58 0.8m
05/12 08.21 0.7m (best)
Although very interesting of course, the foundation would like to ask you to refrain from controlling the camera during these times because it will be recording still images. You are very welcome to look "over it's shoulder".