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Name: Rooswijk
Owner: Dutch East India Company
Launched: 1737
Fate: Sunk on 9 January 1740
General characteristics

The Rooswijk (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈroːsʋɛik]) was a ship belonging to the VOC (Dutch East India Company) that, according to recent, non-contemporary, news reports, sank in 1740.[1]

The National Geographic Channel has an episode about salvaging the treasure from the sunken ship in S1 E4 entitled "Sunken Treasures".

Construction and service[edit]

According to the recent reports, the Rooswijk was built for the VOC "Chamber of Amsterdam" in 1737. On 9 January 1740, during its second journey to the east, it sank on the sand bank of Goodwin Sands, about 8 km from the British mainland. There were no known survivors. At the time, it was captained by Daniel Ronzieres. By examining archive documents, researchers have been able to identify 19 of the 237 crewmen on board, including: Gerrit Hendrick Huffelman, responsible for providing medical care; Thomas Huijdekoper; a 19-year-old on his first voyage; and Pieter Calmer, a sailor who had previously survived the Westerwijk shipwreck.[2]


The Rooswijk was discovered on the Goodwin Sands by an amateur diver in 2004. It lies in about 24 metres (79 ft) of water at the northeast end of Kellett Gut.

In December 2005, it was made public that between May and September of that year a team led by Rex Cowan had recovered some of the ship and its contents. This was done in secrecy to avoid attracting looters. Artifacts recovered included approximately one thousand bars of silver, gold coins and a mustard jar. When the VOC was disbanded in 1798, its possessions fell to the Batavian Republic, the legal successor of which is the current Dutch State, which therefore is entitled to the objects from the Rooswijk. They were presented to Junior Minister of Finance Joop Wijn in Plymouth on 11 December 2005.

The type of coins recovered were several hundred Mexican silver cobs of the 1720s and early 1730s and transitional "klippes" of 1733-1734, as well as many more hundreds of "pillar dollars" and a smattering of cobs from other mints. However, archaeologists have determined that up to half of the money on board was intended for illegal trade, as they were not part of the sanctioned cargo. Many of the discovered coins were also made with small deliberate holes, which suggest that crewmen were sewing them into their clothes to smuggle to the Dutch East Indies.[3] Crewmen were able to make a profit off of buying silver in the Netherlands and then selling it in the Dutch East Indies, where there were no silver mines. Despite being illegal, the VOC tolerated the smuggling because the profit benefited both the smugglers and the company.[4]

After the wreck, the floor timbers collapsed causing the decks of the ship to fall on top of each other. This provides a snapshot of the physical and social aspects of life on board in three layers: the top layer consists of the officers’ dining room; the middle layer comprises the constable’s cabin, containing 50 muskets; and the bottom layer includes the cartridge locker and gun deck, containing bar and round shot.[5]

The salvage operation has led to criticism from heritage organisations worldwide, as some of the international principles concerning the protection of archaeological heritage (Valletta Treaty 1992, UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage 2001) were ignored. During excavation projects, new discoveries were taken to a warehouse in Ramsgate, a coastal town in east Kent, England, for recording and initial preservation. Further analysis and conservation took place in a Historic England storage facility before ultimately being returned to the Netherlands.[6]

The wreck site was designated as a protected wreck on 18 January 2007. Statutory Instrument 2007/61 defines the restricted area as a circle of radius 150 m centred on 51° 16.443' N 01° 34.537' E.


  1. ^ Treasure and intrigue: scientists unravel story of 1740 Kent shipwreck, Maev Kennedy, The Guardian, 18 August 2017
  2. ^ "New evidence reveals Goodwin Sands shipwreck's secrets". BBC News. July 25, 2018.
  3. ^ "New Evidence Tells a Tale of Smuggling and Reveals Who Was On Board, During Major Shipwreck Excavation". Historic England. July 25, 2018.
  4. ^ Marchini, Lucia (December 5, 2017). "Rescuing the Rooswijk". Current World Archaeology. 86.
  5. ^ Dunkley, Mark (October 13, 2008). "Rooswijk Conservation Statement & Management Plan" (PDF). English Heritage. p. 6.
  6. ^ Krakowka, Kathryn (September 20, 2017). "Rescuing the Rooswijk". Current Archaeology. 331.

External links[edit]

  • English Heritage has a detailed archaeological report and other documents on its website.

Coordinates: 51°16′27″N 01°34′32″E / 51.27417°N 1.57556°E / 51.27417; 1.57556