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The Wreck of Vrouw Maria

In the bow, the decorativeness of the wreck can be seen for example in the strut of the cat head. Photo by Jouni Polkko.

Divers by the bow of the wreck. Photo by Jouni Polkko

The tiller lies crosswise on the stern deck and reaches the bulwark on the starboard side. Near the tiller there is among other things a whole glass bottle. Photo by Jouni Polkko.

The Shipwreck of Vrouw Maria: from Ship to a Wreck

The ship's protest gives us a picture of Vrouw Maria's last weeks. The ship left the port of Amsterdam for St. Petersburg on Thursday the 5th of September in 1771. Vrouw Maria passed the Sound customs house in Denmark and went on to the Baltic Sea. The course of the ship was due north. When the ship entered the mouth of the Gulf of Finland, she ought to have changed her course due east in order to get to St. Petersburg, but instead she ended up in the rocky coast of Finland.

According to the ship's logbook, on Thursday night the 3rd of October there were two men on the deck while the other members of the crew were inside spending their time in prayer. In the dark and stormy night the ship struck a rock. However, a big wave refloated the ship, and the crew did not see any leaking. After a while the ship struck another underwater rock and lost her rudder and a part of the sternpost. When the ship refloated again, the crew noticed that she leaked badly. The men tried to pump their ship dry. After the ship was anchored and the sails lowered, the crew saw that by the pump, water had risen up to three feet (nearly one meter). By 7 a.m. the crew had managed to pump the ship dry. The men were tired and they decided to take the dinghy and row to a nearby islet to get some rest. They thought the ship was too dangerous for sleeping because the weather was bad and there were many islets and underwater rocks that made the waves surge all around the ship.

At nightfall on the 4th of October, five islanders arrived at the scene. They promised to come back the following day and bring as many men as possible. When the wind began to drop, the crew rowed back to the ship and managed to salvage ten barrels. The barrels had numbers from 33 to 42. One barrel had "IBG No. 1" on it. Inside the ship, water had risen up to eight feet by the pump. The men did not dare to stay onboard any longer because they could not pump the ship dry. The logbook reveals that on Saturday morning, the 5th of October, nine islanders arrived to help the crew. All the men rowed to the ship and started to pump. By then, water had risen up to nine feet (nearly three meters). After having pumped all day the men had not managed to lower the water level for more than ¾ feet. In the evening, the islanders left. The crew had to leave the ship as well.

On Sunday the 6th of October, the weather was beautiful. The captain ordered some of his men to go and look for more help while the rest of the crew went back to the ship and started pumping again. The attempts to dry the ship were not successful and since the wind had risen again, the men were forced to leave the ship. In the evening, twenty-six men arrived at the scene.

On Monday the 7th of October, in a beautiful weather, the crew and the islanders went to the ship. Water was almost up to the deck and the men pumped as fast as they could. However, some coffee beans had got into the pump and the pumping made little progress. The crew decided to open the fore hatch in order to salvage the ship and her cargo. When the hatch was opened, the men saw that the upper hold was half-filled with water. According to the logbook, the men "salvaged everything they could".

On Tuesday the 8th of October, the salvage operation went on. The men kept on pumping and at the same time, parts of the cargo were taken out. The weather, which was nice at the beginning, turned dreary and the wind started blowing from south and south-east instead of east. The men had to leave the ship. On the following morning, when the men went back to the ship, they could not see her any more. Two customs officials from the city of Turku arrived, and the things that had been salvaged were moved to the customs yacht. After a few days, a north wind took the men in Turku and the captain gave his protest.

Registration period for the Portsmouth Seminar over.