Thursday 9 October 2014

The Lost Treasure of the Vrouw Maria

It is a well known fact that I am never happier than when gadding about near the coast and whenever I get the chance, I like to disappear to spend some time beside the sea. A becalmed ocean is a place of tranquillity, the mightiest body of water as calm as a millpond and yet, when that calm surface is disturbed by storms, many a vessel can be lost beneath the waves.

One such vessel was the Vrouw Maria, a Dutch merchant ship under the command of Captain Raymund Lourens. Her hold full of merchant cargo and, crucially, valuable artworks including items from the collection of Catherine the Great, she set sail from Amsterdam on 5th September 1771 but was destined never to make her intended destination of St Petersburg. 

The Vrouw Maria

As Autumn wore on and conditions at sea worsened, a storm on 3rd October drove her aground not once but twice, with the rudder of the Vrouw Maria damaged beyond repair. As water poured into the stricken ship, efforts went on through the night to save the stricken ship but by dawn all hope was lost and Lourens gave the order to abandon her.

Mercifully the crew all escaped the vessel and a passing boat took them on board and attempted to save the Vrouw Maria. With coffee beans from the cargo hold clumping and clogging her pump, there was nothing that could be done and by the afternoon of 9th October, the Vrouw Maria had disappeared beneath the waves around the island of Jurmo. When she went down she took her priceless cargo with her, consigning it to what seemed to be an eternity at the bottom of the sea.

Over two centuries later the wreck of the Vrouw Maria was discovered in 1999; so far the cargo has not been disturbed but when that day comes, I cannot wait to see the state of Catherine the Great's collection!


Anonymous said...

Hopping over from my FB post on the historical fiction group!

I've recently taken an interest to 18th/19th century seafaring so this post was quite the intriguing read. As much as seafaring during this period seemed 'romantic,' I don't think I'd ever wish to go back in time and try it out. Any way, it must have been a mind-blowing moment when Vroww Maria was found.

Catherine Curzon said...

I always imagine it as very romantic too but I think it's best viewed from a distance!

Mary Seymour said...

Any paintings will have rotted completely, I would imagine, but stone carvings may be recognisable. Anything of gold will be a bright as the day it was made. Good hunting, gentlemen!!

Catherine Curzon said...

I hope that, one day, we'll get the chance to see!

Unknown said...

What a find that will be some day..

Catherine Curzon said...

Look out for a post coming this week, that lifts the lid on the latest investigations!