Sunday, June 15, 2008

Poem: Dutch 16th/17th Century Shipwreck on a Scottish Island (please comment)

Twice daily
on that desert isle
the mighty prow,
the dragon’s head,
festooned with sea wrack,
by ebbing tide,
a sinuous vision
of massive wooden ribs,
comfortably bedded,
diagonally rested,
in gentle curves
across the long white strand.

It voyages on,
a solid vessel,
of heavy, blackened planks
four inches thick,
grafted to ribs
by one inch doméd dowels,
a hallowed hull
in a timeless sea.

Collapsing cliffs of sand enclose the beach and from their edge hangs matted yellowed grass, coconut hair waving in the wind, hiding so many shrunken, blackened skulls, watching. Watching the caressing tide return to kiss each rib in little lapping waves, till only the prow remains and like a seal’s bobbing head is gone, submerged again in silence, sea and sand beneath a headland where wind and currents rule the dark green sea.

I paddled to the island and stayed the night, returning a week later to take the photos, though this time the tide wasn’t low enough to expose all the ship. I would like to find out more information on this shipwreck but here are a few references with pictures of Viking ships:

If you liked my poem then you will like this one by Robert Stephen Hawker. As with the wreck I’ve just discovered it.

The Figure-Head of the Caledonia at her Captain's Grave.

We laid them in their lowly rest,
The strangers of a distant shore;
We smoothed the green turf on their breast,
'Mid baffled Ocean's angry roar;
And there, the relique of the storm,
We fixed fair Scotland's figured form.

She watches by her bold, her brave,
Her shield towards the fatal sea:
Their cherished lady of the wave
Is guardian of their memory.
Stern is her look, but calm, for there
No gale can rend or billow bear.

Stand, silent image! stately stand,
Where sighs shall breathe and tears be shed,
And many a heart of Cornish land,
Will soften for the stranger dead.
They came in paths of storm; they found
This quiet home in Christian ground.

Robert Stephen Hawker

"Parson Hawker,” as he was known to his parishioners, was something of an eccentric, both in his clothes and his habits. He loved bright colours and it seems the only black things he wore were his socks. He built a small hut (that became known as Hawker's Hut) from driftwood on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, where he spent many hours writing his poems and smoking opium. This driftwood hut is now the smallest property in the National Trust portfolio. Other eccentricities included dressing up as a mermaid and excommunicating his cat for mousing on Sundays. He dressed in claret-coloured coat, blue fisherman's jersey, long sea-boots, a pink brimless hat and a poncho made from a yellow horse blanket, which he claimed was the ancient habit of St Pardarn. He talked to birds, invited his nine cats into church and kept a huge pig as a pet.
Harvest Festival that we know today was introduced in the small village of Morwenstow in 1843 by Hawker. He invited his parishioners to a Harvest service. He wanted to give thanks to God for providing such plenty in a more fitting way. This service took place on the 1st of October and bread made from the first cut of corn was taken at communion.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice sea kayaking photos, have fun on your poetic adventures

9:43 am  
Anonymous Stephen the Heathen said...

Sorry John, no Viking boat to be found here, the wreck is only 17th century and it's Dutch, nice images though.

Follow this link for an interesting item on the 'Caledonia'

1:57 pm  
Anonymous johnthebarman said...

Thanks for your interest.
'Viking' was meant to be provocative. I'd hoped someone would identify it. I have had two suggestions from Barra. One was a 'Wellington' and also Wellington Rocks off Polachar. Another was a lifeboat from a Dutch ship.

Please tell me more about your 17th century Dutch ship, its name and your evidence.

6:13 pm  
Blogger Johnthebarman said...

There is a Dutch wreck, The ADELAAR off Grian Head wrecked in 1728, a Dutch East Indiaman of 810 tons, built in 1722 at the Zeeland Yard for the Zeeland Chamber of the Dutch East India Company.

She carried an armament of thirty-six muzzle-loading guns, two of which (those nearest the compass) were bronze, and the rest cast iron. Eight light breech loading swivel guns were mounted on the upper works to counter the threat of small-boat piracy in Asian waters.

Between 1722 and 1727 the ADELAAR made two round trips to Batavia, and in early 1728 preparations were made for a third voyage under a new skipper, Willem de Keyser.

She left her homeport of Middelburg on 21 March with a general cargo and seventeen chests of specie, mainly in the form of silver ingots and coins, for the purchase of her return lading of spices, tea, and porcelain.

Her route took her around the north of the British Isles, and on 4 April, in severe weather, she struck the exposed north-westerly headland of Barra Island near Scotland, which she had evidently been trying to weather. There were no survivors.

A remarkable salvage operation to recover the treasure was set in train by Alexander Mackenzie, an official of the Scottish Court of Admiralty in Edinburgh, who used his family connections to engage the services of Captain Jacob Rowe, a diving pioneer with a patented ‘engine’. This machine, in effect a closed cylinder with sealed sleeves through which the diver’s arms protruded, could be used (albeit with great discomfort) at depths of up to 18 m.

The ADELAAR lay in less than half that. Almost all of the specie was recovered and brought to Edinburgh, where subsequent litigation over its division has left a wealth of documentary information about the ADELAAR, the circumstances of her wrecking, and the saga of the salvage operation.

Information derived from this documentation, together with a surviving local tradition about the wreck, led to its discovery in 1972. Two years of investigative work conducted under the direction of Colin Martin of the Scottish Institute of Maritime Studies at St. Andrews University revealed that a combination of the site’s extreme exposure, and the thoroughness of the 18th-century salvage, had scrambled, degraded, and dispersed much of the archaeological evidence. Discoveries included lead ingots, bricks, iron cannons, a bronze eight-pounder, and a small swivel-gun. There were also some pipes, coins, domestic utensils, and tools. But there was a general lack of material. A Barra diver, John Pendrey assisted on some dives.

Nevertheless the site was significant in showing that valid conclusions can still be drawn from such apparently unpromising wreck formation. This was possible because the extensive documentation provided a set of ‘answers’ about the ship’s size, type, origin, and cargo which could be tested against the reality of the remains as they appeared on the seabed. The conclusion to be drawn is that most wrecks, however dispersed and fragmentary they may seem, retain significant levels of archaeological cohesion which only systematic investigation can identify and interpret.

Bibliography and Sources:
Bruijn, J.R., Gaastra, F.S., Schöffer, I. Dutch-Asiatic Shipping In The 17th and 18th Centuries (3 Vols). The Hague, 1979, 1987
Muckelroy, Keith. Archaeology under Water. An Atlas of the World's Submerged Sites. New York, 1980
Delgado, James P. Encyclopaedia of Underwater and Maritime Archaeology. London,
The Adelaar: a Dutch East-Indiaman Wrecked in 1728 off Barra, Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Author: Martin, Colin J. M.
Source: International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, Volume 34, Number 2, October 2005, pp. 179-210(32)
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing

1:16 pm  
Blogger Johnthebarman said...

Steven the Heathen changed my proud viking prow into a stern post, but all the better for the onward journey. 'Bon voyage!'

Steve Liscoe.
Professional Assistant (Archaeology)
Archaeological Unit
Town House
2 Wemyssfield

has just sent this email:


I believe I am talking to John the Barman?

I saw that you replied to a comment on your website regarding the wreck to be
found on white strand on Fudaigh.

I was part of a small team commissioned by Historic Scotland to assess the
wreck during its most recent period of exposure. The site has been known of for
several decades but is subject to cyclic exposure and reburial by the shifting
sands. Last year was the most that the remains have been exposed in living
memory, usually only a metre or so of the sternpost is visible.

Most of the remains have been stripped and removed centuries ago, and the ship
itself had been used as a source of timber until relatively recently. What
remains of the vessel was identified and dated by the typology of its
construction, which indicate that it was built in the low countries during the
late 17th or possibly early 18th century. Artefacts associated with the wreck
also point towards a Dutch origin, although nothing but the timbers remain on
the beach now.

Research is ongoing to provide a categorical date to the wrecking, and possibly
an identity, though that is more unlikely.

I hope this answers some of your questions.

Cheers, Steve

7:40 pm  
Anonymous generic cialis said...

In principle, a good happen, support the views of the author

4:29 am  
Blogger Johnthebarman said...

Fuday Wreck, Sound of Barra, Western Isles

In conjunction with the University of St. Andrews, Headland undertook the survey and assessment of a nationally important shipwreck off the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides. The ship has initially been identified as a likely Dutch-built trading vessel dating to the 16th or early 17th century. The vessel is possibly one of the oldest known wrecks in Scottish waters and recommendations have been made to Historic Scotland regarding the future recording and conservation of the wreck.

5:46 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home