Sunken Treasure – 248,000 silver coins lost to the sea

Artefacts recovered from Zuytdorp Wreck. WA Museum, currently on display at the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery & Visitor Centre

Nationality: Dutch

Vessel type: Dutch East India Company Merchant Ship

Date lost: June 1712

Cause of loss: Unknown – Wrecked and sunk

Number of Casualties: 200-250 Passengers & Crew

Discovery date: 1964, artefacts were recovered from the beach much earlier

Location/water depth: 65km North of Kalbarri, WA

With a hold full of treasure the Zuytdorp, a Dutch East India Company merchant ship smashed against Shark Bay’s coastal cliffs in June 1712. Due to many cases of scurvy, the Zuytdorp left the ‘Wagon Track’ a well know and safe shipping route to Batavia (Jakarta, Indonesia). Aboard the Zuytdorp were about 200 passengers and crew and a rich cargo, including 248,000 silver coins.


The precise circumstances of the wreck remain a mystery because no survivors reached Batavia to tell the tale. Some did live for a time in Shark Bay, however, where they were helped by local Aboriginal people. This contact with Europeans was probably the first ever made by Australia’s indigenous people.


Timbers, guns, anchors and a carpet of silver coins have been found strewn across the sea floor. In 1986 divers from the Western Australian Maritime Museum raised artefacts from the Zuytdorp.

Treasure hunters firebomb Watchman’s quarters

In 1980 the WA Museum decided to position a watchman at the cliffs in order to guard the site from treasure hunters, he lived alone in a caravan. Travelling to Kalbarri for supplies the watchman returned to find that his van had been firebombed. No one was ever charged with the offence. However in 2010 an investigation led to the recovery of 1400 coins. 

Photo of burnt out caravan can be found in the book Carpet of Silver by Philip Playford, page 176. Photo by Ian Field courtesy of WA Maritime Museum. 

URLs

http://museum.wa.gov.au/maritime-archaeology-db/wrecks/id-811

http://zestfest.com.au/about/educate/zuytdorp-history/

http://www.vochistory.org.au/zuytdorp.html

Coins recovered from Zuytdorp Wreck. WA Museum, currently on display at the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery & Visitor Centre

Coins recovered from Zuytdorp Wreck. WA Museum, currently on display at the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery & Visitor Centre

Replica of Wooden Console, recovered from Zuytdorp Wreck. WA Museum, currently on display at the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery & Visitor Centre

Artefacts recovered from Zuytdorp Wreck. WA Museum currently on display at the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery & Visitor Centre

Remnants of pipes, recovered from Zuytdorp Wreck. WA Museum, currently on display at the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery & Visitor Centre

Objects of interest (artefacts, images or other collection items) associated with the shipwreck story.

A collection of coins is on display at the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery & Visitor Centre. Along with: a Swivel gun, Iron bolts, barrel hoop fragments, ballast stone, Batavia ware porcelain bowl , bronze breech block, pulley sheave, glass case bottle fragment, wine glass stems, brass tufting nails, fine red earthenware fragments, clay pipe stems and bowls.

Also on display is the replica of a carved wooden console from the ship.

AMMC Member Institution

Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery & Visitor Centre

submitted by Deb Court

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