An innovative ship
Duyfken is built about 1595 in the Netherlands. It is a fast, agile and well-armed ship that can engage in maritime battles.
The ship is part of a new breed of innovative Dutch vessels that also has a shallow draft, allowing it to sail in shallow water on voyages of exploration.
Its agility and speed is not hampered by a wide hull, used to carry up to 60 tonnes of cargo.
The Duyfken is selected as a scout for a fleet of four other ships bound for Indonesia from the Netherlands.
Referred to as the ‘Moluccan Fleet’, the Dutch vessels leave Texel, Holland, on April 23, 1601, and reach Bantam Bay, east Java, on Christmas Day of the same year.
There, they encounter a blockading fleet of 30 Portuguese ships – eight galleons and twenty-two galleys.
The two sides engage in an intermittent David-and-Goliath battle until the Dutch capture some ships and drive away the remainder on New Years day.
‘The Battle of Bantam’ is a turning point in history. It marks the start of a 200-year rein by the Dutch as the dominant force in the highly lucrative Indonesian spice trade.
Tour of duty
After the New Year’s day victory, 1602, the Duyfken’s battle damage is repaired at Bantam.
The ship then surveys Jakarta Bay, where the Dutch would later build Batavia (present-day Jakarta) as their commercial capital in the Indies.
The Duyfken then sails via Tuban, east Java, to the spice island of Ternate. From there, it picks up cloves from Ternate and nutumeg from Banda.
Later, it’s sent on a voyage of exploration to the east.
Dutch East India Company
To take advantage of the opportunity provided by the ‘Battle of Bantam’, the Netherlands Government quickly orders rival Dutch trading companies to establish the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC).
The company is officially established in March 20, 1602, and is given a monopoly by the government to trade in spices in the Netherlands as well as legal powers to wage wars, sign treaties and set up colonies in the name of the government.
The VOC soon becomes the richest privately-owned company in the world. The company helps finance the Netherlands’ Golden Age, which last for nearly 200 years. In that time, the country experiences immense wealth and becomes a major power in Europe.
The company bought the Duyfken some time before October 1603.
Back to Europe
On August 25, 1602, the Duyfken sets sail to the Netherlands with the Gelderland and Zeelandto.
On this return trip, the Duyfken is separated from the other larger ships in a storm off Cape Agulhas, southern Africa. It reaches the Netherlands on 17 February, 1603 – two months ahead of the other ships.
Return to the Indies
On December 18, 1603 the Duyfken sets out on a second voyage to the Indies, with Willem Janszoon as skipper. She is part of a fleet of 12 heavily-armed ships, ordered to attack the Portuguese where possible.
An eventful voyage
The fleet reaches Bantam, Java, on New Years Eve. It has been a year since it left the Netherlands.
Back into battle
Duyfken is in a fleet that recaptures the fort of Van Verre at Ambon (in the spice islands) from the Portuguese.
Later in the year she is selected for another voyage of discovery to the south and east. But first she is sent to Bantam, Java, for urgently-needed provisions.
The VOC sends the Duyfken to search for “south and east lands” beyond the furthest reaches of their known world.
The aim is to find the fabled land of Beach, reported by Marco Polo as being abundant in Gold.
Leaving from Banda in Indonesia, the ship sails along the south coast of New Guinea, skirting south of the shallow waters around False Cape. It then sails south east, reaching the west coast of what is now known as Cape York Peninsula.
To the rescue
Records indicate that Duyfken may have made a second voyage east to Australia.
Later in the year she is sent to Java to obtain supplies for the beleaguered Dutch fortress on Ternate.
Duyfken is engaged in a five-hour battle with three Spanish galleys.
In June, Duyfken is sent with larger ships to capture the fortress of Taffaso on Makian Island.
A month later she is brought inside the reef at Ternate for repairs. It seems that she was hauled on her side to repair the bottom but this caused further damage and she was judged unrepairable.