Why is Duyfken so important?

Excerpts from the article The Story of the Duyfken Replica, Construction, Expeditions And Voyages.

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Duyfken is remarkable not only because she is the first Dutch "jacht" to sail from Indonesia to Australia in 350 years, and more recently to sail from Australia to The Netherlands in a recreation of a Dutch spice voyage, but because the impetus to build the ship and sail the expedition came not from governments or corporations, but through an enormous community effort.

It was led by Fremantle community leader Michael G Kailis who unfortunately passed away in June 1999, only weeks before the ship was due to sail for the first time. Fremantle historian Michael Young gathered together a group of like-minded individuals in 1993, and that group, under the leadership of Michael Kailis, became the charitable Duyfken 1606 Replica Foundation. Among that group was current Duyfken Foundation chairman Rinze Brandsma, board member Charlie Welker and Project Director Graeme Cocks.

The community foundation constructed the ship at a cost of $3.7 million to help tell the little known story of Australia's first recorded European visitors and to counter two of Australia's popular historical myths: that Dirck Hartog was the first European to step ashore in Australia and that Captain Cook "discovered" Australia. The 2000 Duyfken Expedition sponsored by Chevron Corporation brought the little known historical truth to people in Australia and all over the world.

The first recorded chart of the Australian coastline was made by Duyfken's Dutch skipper, Captain Willem Janszoon, and the first time recorded in history when Aboriginal Australians met people from the outside world occurred during Duyfken's 1606 voyage of discovery. Indeed, the indigenous people of Cape York still talk about the Duyfken landing in their oral history. For the crew of the original Duyfken, theirs was a voyage beyond the known world at the time. They thought that a land of gold known as "Nova Guinea" could exist to the southeast and they set out to find it. What they found was the Gulf of Carpentaria coast of Australia's Cape York Peninsula and the oldest living culture on Earth -- but no gold.

Janszoon charted 350 kilometres of the Cape coast before sailing north to Torres Strait and unsuccessfully searching for a passage through the maze of shoals and islands. He approached the fringing reefs of Papua New Guinea before turning to the west and returning to the Banda Islands, his crew depleted from skirmishes with the people of Cape York and Irian Jaya. Duyfken's voyage marked the European "discovery" of the sixth continent and over the next 150 years, more than two dozen Dutch voyages to Australia charted three-quarters of the Australian coastline. Englishman Lieutenant James Cook and Endeavour filled in the last part of the map 164 years later. Duyfken's visit marks the beginning of Australia's recorded history.

Hailed by Dutch historians as the most exacting "Age of Discovery" replica sailing ship yet constructed, Duyfken's hull is European Oak from Latvia, her sails and rig all natural flax and hemp. She was built and fitted-out in Fremantle using "plank-first" construction. Fire was employed to bend the hull planks and inside frames were added afterwards. The hull was launched on 24 January 1999 and she was able to sail for the first time on 10 July 1999. Soon afterwards, work began to prepare the basic ship for the Chevron 2000 Duyfken Expedition.

Thousands of people contributed to the construction of the vessel: experienced shipwrights headed by Australia's most acclaimed master shipwright, Bill Leonard, joined with volunteer shipwrights. Volunteer guides showed people over the ship as she was being built, and the Friends of the Duyfken and the Duyfken 1606 Club represented the wider community and business supporters. Most importantly, the Duyfken 1606 Replica Foundation obtained funding for the project from the Governments of the Netherlands, Western Australia, Queensland, and Australia, the Lotteries Commission of WA, private donors, the MG Kailis Group of Companies and a whole raft of other companies and members of the community.

Once the ship was completed, the search began for a crew with the skills to sail a 400-year old Dutch tall ship design. Since a ship of this type had not been constructed for 350 years, the Duyfken Foundation looked to Australia's pool of tall ship sailors or people who could adapt to life on such a primitive vessel. The search for suitable crew took a year. The Ship's Master was Peter Manthorpe, who is one of Australia's most experienced tall ship masters. He was joined by First Mate Gary Wilson who later became Master of the vessel. His crew rediscovered sailing skills not used for 300 years to sail the 24 metre, 140 tonne vessel. They began to understand the wisdom of the Dutch shipbuilders from the Age of Discovery as the little ship overcame every ocean challenge presented to her. Duyfken is believed to be the only ship operating in the world using a traditional Dutch whipstaff or "kolderstok" for steering.

Thousands of people and 100 craft farewelled Duyfken and her crew in Fremantle on 8 April 2000 as they began their arduous expedition. The Duyfken crew varies in size but the crew, which left Fremantle, comprised 18 experienced square-rig sailors from Western Australia, South Australiaand New South Wales, and an experienced shore team. They came to the expedition for the chance of a lifetime the first time that a replica of a Dutch East India Company (VOC) vessel had been taken to the famed Spice Islands of Indonesia. Joining them were two historians, a marine biologist, two artists and a film crew from Sydney-company Firelight Productions filming a documentary of the expedition. The marine biologist from Townsville, Paul Hough, studied the works of the noted VOC naturalist Georgius Rumphius. An Indonesian interpreter and a Dutchman were also part of the crew.

Visit the Chevron 2000 Expedition Section for greater detail.

Less than 12 months since Duyfken re-enacted Willem Janszoon's historic 1606 voyage from the Spice Islands to Cape York peninsula - the first known European encounter with Australia and its Aboriginal people, producing the first chart of an Australian coastline - the little replica Dutch scout ship set sail from the Australian National Maritime Museum on an ambitious voyage to Texel in The Netherlands.

The venture was inspired by the great voyages of the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) or Dutch United East-Indies Company fleets in the early part of the 17th century. It will culminate with Duyfken's arrival in The Netherlands to be a major participant in Dutch celebrations next year marking the 400th anniversary of the founding of the VOC.

Visit the VOC2002 Voyagie Section for greater detail.