Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum


In 1712 the Zuytdorp was on its way from Holland to Batavia in company with a ship called the Kockenge. The two ships left the Cape of Good Hope on 22 April 1712, but became separated and the Zuytdorp never arrived at its destination. The Zuytdorp was one of two ships carrying newly minted silver guilders to Batavia and these coins would be instrumental in proving the identity of the Zuytdorp when the wreck was discovered. There is no doubt that there were survivors from the Zuytdorp. It is now thought that she struck the cliffs side on and keeled over in such a position that survivors could have scrambled via the rigging onto the shore. The enigma is what happened to these survivors, and it has been an ongoing debate since the wreck was discovered. Aboriginal reports of wrecks in this area in 1834 tell of white people living in tents and trading biscuits with local Aboriginal people. At the time it was thought that these reports were about the Mercury (18-18), but it is possible they could be handed down tales that are evidence of survivors from Zuytdorp. (See entry for Mercury) There is strong evidence that there were survivors. At the top of the cliffs near the wreck, remains of large bonfires were found. Burnt remains included barrel rings, and brass hinges and clasps, indicating such items as wooden chests and barrels were used to create a large fire to attract the attention of any passing ships. Artefacts have been found at other sites near wells and up to 30 kilometres from the wreck site, indicating that they were either taken there by survivors or Aboriginal people. At the time of the shipwreck, although the country in the area was rugged, it was winter and there would have been a strong likelihood that there was an abundance of water in the wells and soaks. It is also known that during the years 1705-11 the average rainfall in Australia was higher than average, which would have provided the survivors with a higher opportunity to survive. Combined with the number of legends that have persisted over time about red or fair haired Aboriginals with light skins, it seems reasonable to reflect further on the fate of the Zuytdorp survivors.

Associated Tribe Nhanta

Contact Evidence Possible

Type of contact Unknown

Year 1712

Nationality Dutch

Location near Murchison River mouth

Source European