Duyfken Replica Story


When the replica ship Duyfken slipped out of Fremantle Harbour in Western Australia on 8 April 2000 she began her maiden international voyage, an expedition into Australian, Dutch and Indonesian history.

Duyfken (the Little Dove) sailed more than 5000km from her home port of Fremantle to Banda in Indonesia, first sailing north along Western Australia's Dutch coast. The voyage was made more difficult by heavy seas, headwinds and times of dead calm as well as primitive conditions aboard.

The first months of this voyage set a pattern which would be repeated many times: visiting important sites from maritime history and telling the stories along the way.

Duyfken visited the Abrolhos Islands near Geraldton where the Dutch East India Company (VOC) ship Batavia struck a coral reef and a subsequent mutiny resulted in many deaths. Her crew also visited Cape Inscription at Shark Bay where Dutchman Dirk Hartog left his famous plate 10 years after Duyfken's 1606 visit to Cape York on the north eastern corner of the continent.

The replica 24 meter 140 tonne Dutch "jacht" left Australian waters for the first time after visiting Broome in the far north Kimberley region of Western Australia and sailed into Indonesia across the Timor Sea. The crew arrived at Kupang in West Timor two weeks later -- the replica vessel's first major ocean passage. Duyfken then sailed through the Indonesian archipelago.

The successful ocean passage represented the culmination of seven years of hard work and validation of an idea generated in the coffee shops of Fremantle.

Duyfken is remarkable not only because she was the first Dutch "jacht" to sail from Indonesia to Australia in 350 years 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. The dream to build Duyfken came from Fremantle historian Michael Young who gathered together a group of like-minded individuals in 1993 to talk about the idea. Among that group was current Duyfken Foundation chairman Graeme Cocks. Under the leadership of Michael Kailis, a charitable foundation was formed and serious planning began.

The community-based foundation achieved what many thought at the time was impossible. It raised $3.9 million to build a ship to help tell the little known story of Australia's first recorded European visitors. A strong motivation was to counter two of Australia's popular historical myths: that Dirk Hartog was the first European to step ashore in Australia and that Captain Cook "discovered" Australia.

The 2000 Duyfken Expedition 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. The first time recorded in history when Aboriginal Australians met people from the outside world occurred during Duyfken's 1606 voyage of exploration. Indeed, the indigenous people of Cape York 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 eastern coastline of the Gulf of Carpentaria on 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 visit marked the beginning of Australia's recorded history. 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 aboard Endeavour filled in the last part of the map 164 years later.

The Duyfken replica had a lot to live up to. An exercise in experimental archaeology, the ship was hailed by Dutch historians as the most exacting "Age of Discovery" replica sailing ship constructed. Duyfken's hull is European Oak from Latvia, her sails and rig all natural flax and hemp. She was built 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 the design was deemed a great success when she sailed brilliantly for the first time on 10 July 1999.

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. The Duyfken 1606 Club represented the wider community and business supporters.

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 first voyage 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. Their crew rediscovered sailing skills not used for 300 years to sail the 24 metre, 140 ton 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 primitive when compared with later square rigged sailing ships and is believed to be the only ship operating in the world using a traditional Dutch whipstaff or "kolderstok" for steering.

A key objective of the Chevron 2000 Duyfken Expedition was to inspire people to learn more about Dutch Australian history by inviting them to come aboard during port visits. Duyfken sailed up the Western Australian coast visiting sites of historic maritime importance, recognizing the feats of the early navigators who sailed along the continent's western coast and sometimes came to grief when they failed to turn north at the right time after sailing across the vast Indian Ocean.

The voyage to Indonesia had particular significance because it was the first people-to-people cultural exchange between Australia and Indonesia since the East Timor crisis which resulted in independence for the Timor-Leste.

At Kupang, and again at Solor and Flores, enthusiastic Indonesians who were surprised by the historical connections with Australia greeted the crew.

Indeed, like most Australians, Indonesians are not aware that the first ship to visit Australia

sailed from the islands of eastern Indonesia. Duyfken sailed to the Spice Islands, now known as the Maluku Province. For thousands of years, this province supplied the world with nutmeg, mace and cloves. The original Duyfken was involved with this trade and the expedition re-discovered this part of the ship's rich history.

As Duyfken sailed from island to island she became known as "Kapal VOC" (VOC ship) signifying the connection of the vessel with the Dutch East India Company (VOC). The crew's secondary mission was to build bonds of friendship with the people of Indonesia and this was accomplished at the many ports she visited.

Duyfken arrived at the famed nutmeg island of Banda south of Ambon on 21 June, 2000. Banda was the departure point for the original voyage of discovery to Australia. The arrival of the ship at the place where the original little Dutch scout ship left on one of the least understood voyages of world discovery was a seminal moment for all in the Duyfken Foundation.

After a two week tour of the Banda Islands, the ship turned north east towards Ceram Island to find favorable winds and to re-enact the 1606 voyage, ultimately sailing south east to the mouth of the Pennefather River, 30 km north of Weipa on Cape York Peninsula in Queensland's Gulf of Carpentaria.

The arrival on 9 August 2000 had particular significance for the people of the Mapoon, Aurukun and Napranum communities as the story of Duyfken's original visit is part of their oral history tradition.

The communities were invited to participate in the arrival in any way they saw fit. Queensland Premier Peter Beattie joined the traditional owners of the Pennefather River mouth, the head of Chevron Overseas from San Francisco, Aboriginal singers, dancers, and more than 200 people from Weipa and nearby communities to welcome the vessel.

Charged with a strong sense of past injustices both in Indonesia and Australia, Duyfken's crew was intent upon making their own statement on the beach. Captain Peter Manthorpe came ashore bearing a message stick from the Noongah community of the Fremantle area. The message stick asked for permission to land. He placed a white flag on a pole on the beach and next to it was placed a spear signifying that this was to be a peaceful visit. Duyfken's crew was given permission to land, and 400 years of Australian history came into focus for a moment.

The traditional owners spoke about the importance of recognizing the past, but not dwelling on it, of going forward together and creating a better future. Ordinary Australians had joined together to perform an act of reconciliation inspired by the first moment in Australian history when Aboriginal people and Europeans met. From the Pennefather River, Peter Manthorpe and his crew followed Captain Willem Janszoon's original chart of the Queensland coast but unlike the voyage of 1606 they came ashore with the permission of the Aboriginal people of Cape York. This time, message sticks and handshakes were exchanged -- not musket balls and spears.

They sailed north through Torres Strait to Port Moresby and then on to a five month exhibition tour of Queensland ports.

When Duyfken finally arrived in Sydney in March 2001, her crew had sailed tens of thousands of kilometres, tens of thousands of people had looked over the vessel, millions worldwide had seen a documentary of the expedition and another one of the Duyfken 1606 Replica Foundation's goals was achieved: to bring the story of the first European expedition to Australia to the world's attention. But probably more significant will be that moment at the Pennefather River when Duyfken's crew asked for permission to come ashore.

Duyfken's stay in Sydney was to be short-lived, as the “VOC2002 Jaar” committee in The Netherlands was in advanced negotiations for the ship to sail an ambitious voyage from Sydney to the original ship’s home port.

Less than 12 months since Duyfken re-enacted Willem Janszoon’s historic 1606 voyage from the Spice Islands to Cape York peninsula the little replica Dutch scout ship was about to set sail from the Australian National Maritime Museum on an ambitious voyage to the Texel roadsted in The Netherlands.

The venture was inspired by the great voyages of the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) or Dutch East-India Company fleets in the 17th century. It culminated with Duyfken’s arrival in The Netherlands to be a major participant in Dutch celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of the founding of the VOC.

The Duyfken Foundation’s plan was to retrace these homeward voyages, picking up the same trade winds the Dutch knew so well and braving the same challenges of the stormy southern cape of Africa, equatorial doldrums and the stormy North Atlantic.

Duyfken’s captain on this voyage was Willem Cornelisz Schouten who, with Jacob Le Maire, later discovered Cape Horn. Admiral Harmensz' log was fully translated into English by Duyfken's Adriaan de Jong and was published by the Duyfken Foundation as a book entitled “Spice Adventurers” and provided an important historical template for the voyage.

The log told of Duyfken’s role in battle with the Portuguese fleet, helping to end the dominance of the spice trade by the Iberians (Portuguese and Spanish). Schouten surveyed Jakarta Bay where the Dutch colonial capital Batavia (now Jakarta) was later built, and sailed Duyfken to the spice islands Ternate and Banda to load cloves and nutmeg for the company. He rejoined the fleet for the voyage home, setting out from Jakarta and Bantam to cross the Indian Ocean bound for Mauritius.

In November 1602 Duyfken was separated from the fleet in a storm off Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa. She rounded the Cape of Good Hope and headed for St Helena. After a one-month stay at St Helena, the ship set sail north and made landfall at the islands of Fernando de Noronha off the east coast of Brazil. From Fernando de Noronha, Duyfken sailed for The Netherlands and arrived at Vlissingen on 17 February 1603, where Schouten would have learned that the VOC had been formed in the previous year.

Since Duyfken’s 1602 voyage, the ports-of-call have changed a great deal but in each one the legacy of the VOC age remains. The presence of the replica ship highlighted VOC history, as well as bringing to international attention the feats of VOC mariners who developed global trading routes, many of which are still in use today.

The VOC 2002 voyage was a logical progression from the Chevron 2000 Duyfken Expedition. Taking close to a year, the voyage to Europe was the world’s most ambitious re-enactment voyage ever undertaken by an Age of Discovery replica ship.

It added greatly to the lessons about Renaissance seamanship and shipbuilding already learned during the Duyfken replica’s construction and her initial voyages.

Duyfken sailed on 5 May 2001 from the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney on a high after a successful visit during which many thousands of visitors saw her during the preceding months. It was 400 years since the ships Gelderlandt, Zeelandt, Utrecht, Wachter and Duyfken departed from Texel as part of the Old East Indies Company (Oude Oost-Indische Compagnie) of Amsterdam, the precursor of the VOC.

The departure followed hectic weeks of organizing equipment and provisions after successful negotiations with The Netherlands to secure the sponsorship which made the voyage possible, and enlisting an enthusiastic Australian and international crew at short notice.

Under new Captain Glenn Williams, Duyfken left a dock full of well-wishers and media.

She headed into stormy autumn weather, with favouring southerlies but rain and mounting seas to test the sea-legs of the crew. Making good time up the coast, Duyfken made a rendezvous with the Endeavour replica at Moreton Bay, Queensland. The two ships were built by the same shipwright, Bill Leonard, in Fremantle. The encounter highlighted two highly significant events in Australian history separated by 164 years.

Duyfken made her first port of call in Port Douglas, in north Queensland. From there she sailed through Torres Strait via Thursday Island to Darwin before sailing for Jakarta via the Tanimbar Islands.

The Duyfken received a warm welcome at Sunda Kelapa, the old part of Batavia in Jakarta. This is the site of the VOC capital Batavia, founded in 1619 after a move from the nearby pepper port of Banten. It was the centre of VOC activity in the Indies for 200 years. An island in Jakarta Bay was called Duyfken Island on early charts, reflecting the role Duyfken played. It is now called Pulau Dapur (Kitchen Island) and is about six kilometres from the old Dutch harbour of Sunda Kelapa, now famous for the tall-masted Bugis trading ships mooring there. It was once the gateway to the VOC’s Batavia and is now most historic part of modern Jakarta.

After sailing from Jakarta the Duyfken replica sailed past Anak Krakatua, the famous volcanic island, then through Sunda Strait. The ship deviated from the route normally followed by spice-laden VOC ships homeward-bound from the East Indies, by sailing to Galle Harbour in Sri Lanka.

Galle is a historic fortified town with 14 bastions as well as Dutch houses, a Dutch church and bell tower, Government House, and a Dutch period museum. With several VOC shipwrecks in the harbour, Galle is now perhaps the most actively studied harbour for VOC ship remains. Duyfken's visit was planned to highlight the progress made towards restoring Galle's historical assets but the city. Unfortunately, Galle was devastated by the massive Sumatran tsunami which crossed the Indian Ocean in 2004.

The crew sailed to Mauritius to a very hospitable welcome. Like many VOC ships before, Mauritius was a welcome location to re-provision the ship. Mauritius was discovered in 1505 by a Portuguese navigator. It became a useful provisioning island for ships bound for India. The Dutch arrived in 1598, and renamed the island after the Dutch stadtholder Maurits.

Since 1503 when the Portuguese first entered Table Bay, the Cape of Good Hope has been a place to re-supply European ships. The shipwreck of the VOC ship Nieuwe Haarlem in 1647 began the Dutch settlement in the Cape. The survivors built a small fort and named it ‘Sand Fort of the Cape of Good Hope’, seeking refuge for a year before being rescued by a fleet of VOC ships.

The Duyfken Foundation decided to re-fit the ship at Simon's Town on the eastern side of the Cape of Good Hope. Simon's Town was the winter provisioning port for VOC ships and thanks to the naval authorities the naval dockyard was used to lift the vessel. The same dock used by HMS Hood was used to lift Duyfken. It was a short sail for the crew and a group of VIPs to sail around the "Cape of Storms", the Cape of Good Hope to Cape Town.

Following an approach from the Dutch Embassy in Namibia, it was decided to add Walvis Bay to the voyage program to highlight the long maritime history of the coastline, the northern part which is called the Skeleton Coast. As in Cape Town where the Khoikhoi herders encountered the Dutch traders and began to trade, so it was in Walvis Bay where European ships traded with the local herders.

Leaving Walvis Bay, Duyfken searched for the south-easterly winds of the great trade-wind belt that circles the southern hemisphere from the tropics to the temperate zone, to steer her towards lonely St Helena. This beautiful, verdant island was a critical watering point for the VOC ships and was often used to re-group the fleets before they tackled the Indian or Atlantic Oceans. It ended up in English hands and became the final resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The Duyfken replica’s sailing passage northwards through the Atlantic had more port stopovers for re-provisioning than the VOC ships enjoyed. One was the small island of Ascension, 750 miles north-west of Saint Helena. It was discovered by the Portuguese seafarer Joao da Nova Castelia in 1501, although this visit apparently went unrecorded. It was found again two years later on Ascension Day by the Spanish explorer Alphonse d’Albuquerque, who gave the island its name. A short stay in Ascension was followed by Duyfken's longest passage to date.

Like the VOC ships of the past, Duyfken was forced to weather the doldrums and claw northwards against the north-east trade winds until she reached higher latitudes and westerly winds to take her home. The Portuguese-speaking Azores islands were a useful re-provisioning stop.

Spring gales made the last week of the voyage the toughest for Duyfken’s crew. Texel’s roadstead has welcomed returning seafarers for more than five centuries and the replica was welcomed ‘home’ on April 28, 2002.

Crown Prince Willem Alexander travelled to the island of Texel to welcome Duyfken Chairman Rinze Brandsma and the crew. A local newspaper reported that 40,000 people crammed every vantage point to see the ship arrive in the tiny harbour. The little ship and her crew sailed across 4 oceans, over 65.000km, visited 10 countries across 4 continents, with over 300.000 people coming aboard the ship and over a million spectators to watch the ship. Until then, the ship was only three years old.

The Duyfken Foundation was unable to secure the sponsorship required to sail the vessel home from Europe. She was dismantled in Rotterdam in September 2002 placed on a Spliethoff cargo ship and freighted back to Fremantle.

After such great international success, the Duyfken Foundation had the challenge of adapting to operations out of a single port. With help of many volunteers from all walks of life, Duyfken continued to operate in a low key way in Fremantle and on the Swan River.

Thanks to the persistence of a board led by Fremantle Mayor Peter Tagliaferri, and board members including John Longley, a lifeline was thrown to the ship.

Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell announced in March 2006 that Duyfken would embark on a nine month, 12,000km voyage to every state of Australia to mark the 400th anniversary of the first recorded European contact with the “Unknown Southern Land”. The “Australia on the Map” program celebrated the 400th anniversary of Captain Willem Janszoon’s voyage to Australia.

The success of the Australia on the Map program in 2006 was the catalyst for Duyfken to enter into a three year agreement with the Cairns City Council and the Queensland Government for the vessel to be home ported in Cairns and to sail between Queensland ports telling the story of the first Dutch visit to Queensland.

When this contract was completed, Duyfken remained in Queensland and board member Kasper Kuiper took responsibility for the ship from shore manager Cian Pereira who had been with the ship since the Australia on the Map year. The ship was berthed at the Queensland Maritime Museum. The ship was at this berth in January 2011 when the Brisbane River flooded. Working night and day, her shore crew secured Duyfken and she safely rode out the floods.

Following a refit, Duyfken was then sailed to Cockle Bay in Sydney for a one year contract with the Australian National Maritime Museum to replace Endeavour as a floating museum attraction while the Cook replica was circumnavigating Australia. Duyfken was once again the center of attention in Australia’s biggest city.

It had been six years since Duyfken was in Western Australia when Acting Premier Kim Hames announced in February 2012 that the Government of Western Australia had entered into an agreement with the Duyfken Foundation for the ship to return to home. The 10 year grant agreement ensured that Duyfken would once again become part of the fabric of the Western Australian community. Importantly, the ship would be available for events surrounding the Gallipoli Centenary in 2014/15 and the 400th Anniversary of Dirk Hartog’s landfall on the western coast of Australia in 2016.

In April 2012, she set sail from Sydney to Fremantle via Brisbane, Mackay, Townsville, Port Douglas, Cooktown, Weipa, Darwin, Port Hedland and Geraldton to return home.

WA Premier Colin Barnett said: “To have a ship like that here in WA representing Australia’s rich pre-colonial history and more-so directly connecting to WA’s links with our amazing Dutch maritime history is a fantastic achievement and will provide a unique opportunity for tourists to visit a new attraction exuding massive educational appeal”.

The arrival of Duyfken back to Fremantle will be a source of great pride and pleasure for the thousands of people who have contributed to Duyfken since the first spark of an idea in 1993 caught the imagination of people from all walks of life and an incredible project began.