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Experts work on wreck of 18th century Dutch ship Rooswijk at Goodwin Sands near Deal

By Sam Lennon

Maritime archaeologists are at the Goodwin Sands diving, excavating and recording the wreck site of an 18th century ship.

And details of their finds can be learned at an open day tomorrow.

The international team is working on the Dutch merchant ship Rooswijk, which sank in the area in 1740.

The team in the Rooswijk project. Picture courtesy of Historic England

The ship was heading for Batavia (modern-day Jakarta in Indonesia) with a large cargo of silver ingots and coins.

It is now a protected wreck site and the ships’s remains are owned by the Dutch government.

The site is managed by Historic England.

The current #Rooswijk1740 project is led and financed by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, part of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

The archaeologists are working on the site at Goodwin throughout the summer.

The Rooswijk is threatened by currents and shifting sands and an exploratory study of the wreck last year confirmed the need for this excavation.

The site is classed as high risk on the Heritage at Risk register due to its exposed remains and vulnerability.

A drawing of a ship similar to the Rooswijk by Adolf van der Laan in 1716. Picture: Collection of the Fries Scheepvaart Museum
A tankard found on the 18th century wrecked Rooswijk. Picture courtesy of Historic England

Alison James, maritime archaeologist at Historic England, said: “Wrecks such as the Rooswijk are time capsules that offer a unique glimpse into the past and tell a story.

"Sharing that story with a wide audience is a key part of this project and we look forward to the fascinating insights and discoveries that the Rooswijk excavation will uncover this summer.”

Martijn Manders, excavation project leader and maritime heritage programme manager at the CHA, said: “The Goodwin Sands has been a treacherous place for ships throughout the centuries and is now a treasure trove for archaeologists.

The rapidly shifting sands mean that the site is even more exposed now than it was during our initial dives to assess the condition of the Rooswijk last year.

"This makes the excavation urgent.”

A member of the Rooswijk archaeological team. Picture courtesy of Historic England

There are a total of 250 DEIC shipwrecks, only of which a third have been located.

Never before has a DEIC wreck been scientifically researched or excavated on this scale.

Material recovered from the wreck site is being taken ashore to a warehouse in Ramsgate for preservation and recording.

The finds will be returned to the Netherlands and in future some material may be made available for display in Ramsgate.

There will be two open days in Ramsgate with two sessions each, 10am and 2pm, tomorrow and on Saturday, September 16.

Visitors will be able to see the finds and explore the techniques and technology the archaeologists are using.

  • To book a place email education@nauticalarchaeologysociety.org or telephone 023 9281 8419.
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