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Dutch-Australians build replica of VOC-ship Duyfken

Textbooks now reflect 1606 discovery

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

FREMANTLE, Australia - The local efforts at building a replica of a 16th century ship of the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) are meant to reflect the recent recognition of the ‘real discoverers’ of Australia. In 1606, the crew of the Duyfken under Captain Willem Jansz. were the first Westerners to explore the west coast of what they called ‘Groot Zuydtlandt’ and which mapmakers soon dubbed ‘Terra Australis Incognita, or ‘unknown southern land’. Anglo influences made Captain Cook the ‘official discoverer’ of Australia when he landed in 1768.

Jansz.’ Duyfken was built in 1594 on a VOC-wharf in Amsterdam. The ship was part of a fleet - together with the Amsterdam, the Mauritius and the Hollandia - led by Cornelis Houtman. His expedition was aimed to find a new, peaceful route to the Indies, then under the influence of the Portuguese. Exploring the Indies and surrounding seas, the Duyfken ‘came upon’ Australia and the rest should have been (official) history. However, until 1994 explorer Cook’s 1768 role was the only one mentioned in official (school) books. The Replica Foundation established four years ago to build the Duyfken, managed to force a decision to re-write history and reflect the 1606 Dutch discovery.

The Duyfken was an integral part of the Dutch merchants’ force in the Indies until 1608 when it was scuttled near Ternate, probably because of heavy damage sustained in clashes with Portuguese competitors. In the 1990s, efforts to raise the wreckage failed and the idea was dropped. Subsequently, Australian businessman Michael Kailis decided to muster support for a replica building plan.

Based on a detailed and authentic model of the Duyfken built by Dutch-Australian C. de Heer, blueprints for the replica were drawn and the members of the Replica Foundation began their efforts to raise the estimated Aus$3.5 million to finish the project.

Upon completion this Summer, the ship will be brought by freighter to the Netherlands. There, after a re-fitting at a Vlissingen wharf, the ‘new’ Duyfken and its crew of 40 hope to retrace its 1595 voyage from the VOC starting point at the Northern Dutch island of Texel. A Dutch group - Stichting Nederlandse Vrienden van de Duyfken - was formed to support the project and to look after the ‘Dutch segment’ of the promotional voyage.