Living History

In 1606 the small jacht Duyfken, owned by the Dutch East India Company and stationed in the East Indies, made a voyage of exploration looking for "east and south lands" which took it to Australia's Cape York Peninsula. That voyage is the first historically recorded voyage to Australia.

As part of bringing Australian history to life, the Duyfken replica was built at the Lotteries Duyfken Village Shipyard in front of the Maritime Museum in Fremantle. The keel was laid by the Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander of Orange on 12th January 1997.

The construction process was very different from that used to build the Endeavour replica which was also constructed in Fremantle although both start with keel, stem and sternpost. The lower hull of Duyfken was built plank-first as the original ship would have been in the late 16th century. Planks were pre-bent to shape over an open fire. Our shipwrights learned this archaic technique, bending the 60mm thick planks which form the lower planking. At first it seemed very difficult; probably too many levers, pulleys, fulcrums and weights were used. The shipwrights eventually just let the planks droop slowly under their own weight over a slow fire. In a good week the team under Bill Leonard would fit a full port and starboard strake of planks.

The planks are northern European oak (Quercus robur) imported from Latvia. The timber was still fairly green but the drying effect of the heat bending process was significant. Planks that felt distinctly wet before bending work more like matured timber a couple of hours later.

Duyfken was built as a process of "experimental archaeology" - at the end of the processthe Foundation understood a great deal more about the advantages and the disadvantages of plank-first construction as practiced by the Dutch, who were the most successful shipbuilders and sailors in Europe.