The East Indiaman was the largest cargo ship used by the Dutch East India Company or VOC (in Dutch: Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie). During the 17th and 18th centuries ships like these were used to sail to Asia and bring back goods like spices, porcelain, tea, silk and textiles from Asia to Europe. The average journey took about eight months. All East Indiamen combined made nearly five thousand voyages.
In January 1749, the original Amsterdam ship left the island of Texel for its first voyage to Batavia, modern Jacarta in Indonesia. After two weeks on the North Sea, the ship was caught in a storm in the English Channel. During this violent storm the ship’s rudder broke off and Captain Willem Klump in the end decided to put the ship on the beach near the English town of Hastings in an attempt to save the 333 people, cargo and the ship. After beaching the ship it started to sink away into the soft mud, but not before the crew and the most precious items of the ship’s cargo – 28 chests of silver – had been brought to safety.
In a way, it was lucky that the Amsterdam sank away in the mud; it preserved much of the items used by the crew. When it was excavated by archaeologists in the 1980s, the shipwreck proved to be a time capsule of daily life onboard an 18th-century East Indiaman. The wreck of the Amsterdam also provided many new insights in Dutch shipbuilding practices used in the 18th century. With support of the town council of Amsterdam it was decided to put these new insight to the test by building a life-size replica of the Amsterdam. Construction began in 1985 and after the new ship was finished it found a permanent mooring place next to the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam.
Each deck has been rebuilt to give you an insight into daily life onboard a Dutch East Indiaman. Visit the cramped orlop deck and see how sailors slept. Step into the spacious cargo hold where both the cargo but also the important provisions and victuals for the crew were stored . Finally, visit the more luxurious captain’s quarters and officer’s mess where important visitors were entertained and the ship’s officers stayed. From the quarterdeck, you can enjoy a panoramic view of Amsterdam, much like it was more than 300 years ago.