Preserved Ship: Not all that many centuries ago, the Dutch Empire was so vast it owned territories on five continents. By 1670, it was viewed as an economic powerhouse, with complex trading routes and innumerable ships that traversed the seas, buying, trading and selling goods virtually right around the world.
The ships that carried those goods to and from the Empire’s colonies were called fluyts, and one example, almost completely unmarred by centuries below the surface of the Baltic Sea, was found recently close to the Gulf of Finland.
A group of divers from a nonprofit organization called Badewanne, came across the vessel recently, almost by accident.
The fluyt was 280 feet below surface, but it is in such good shape, so undamaged, that experts from the group are not even certain why the boat sank.
Preliminary investigations have left them wondering if, perhaps, the boat’s rigging froze and stopped functioning, or maybe it capsized during a bad storm, or perhaps the boat may have been leaking from a piece of broken equipment and it took on more water than the few crew members could deal with.
“We really don’t know,” confirmed Jouni Polkko, one of the diving team’s members in an interview with the Sun newspaper.
No matter what the reason was for its sinking, experts agree that this is one of the few remaining ships of its kind anywhere in the world.
Flutys were constructed to allow them to carry as much cargo as possible, yet run with relatively few crew members. Consequently, assuming something went wrong that required a lot of team work for the boat to survive, it just didn’t have the manpower to make that happen.
Sitting at such cold depths helped preserve the boat, as it prevents wood from breaking down quickly.
Furthermore, the little sea organisms that might normally feed on wood can’t survive at those depths and temperatures, so they were not a factor either.
No word yet on whether the vessel will be brought to land, restored and put on display, perhaps in a marine museum.
During its heyday, the Dutch Empire infiltrated continents all over the globe, from America to Asia to Africa. But it was up against the British, who were also conquering vast parts of the world, and the Dutch Empire went into decline after peaking in 1688, according to historians.
Today, of course, both England’s colonization practises and Holland’s are viewed through a different lens, as the consequences of colonization are recognized for causing great harm to Indigenous peoples in many countries.
Still, the ship found off the coast of Finland is historically important, and should be retrieved and preserved for future generations to view and learn from.
The divers were, in fact, looking for shipwrecks from both world wars when they “stumbled” upon the Dutch merchant ship. The Baltic has been, historians note, a vital part of trading routes ever since the 13th century.
It offers three vital facets to the conservation of shipwrecks – cold temperatures, darkness, and lower levels of salt in the sea – and so many wrecks found there are unusually well preserved, and this recent discovery is no exception.
The Badewanne team specializes in making documentaries about the war vessels they find on dives, although this ship may, indeed, make its way into an upcoming video about the dive.
The group has added to its focus recently, exploring the negative effects shipwrecks have on marine life and oceans.
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Although the group is based in Finland, the divers on its roster come from many different countries, making it a truly international organization that has a mission to document, and inform others about, the wrecks that linger on the oceans’ floors.