■ LELYSTAD, NETHERLANDS: In the year 1628, the Dutch Merchant ship Batavia, named after the Germanic tribe the Romans called Batavians who inhabited the lands we today call Netherlands, was launched into the North Sea. Engulfed in an existential struggle with Spain and Portugal at the time, the Dutch Republic had still managed to become one of Europe’s greatest sea-fearing trading nations.
The Batavia although a merchant ship were also equipped to be able to mount a substantial defense of her crew and cargo. Merchant ships, although not a part of the Dutch navy in peace time, were capable of fending for themselves and in times of escalating tensions with other imperial, doubled as regular navy ships.
Exorbitantly expensive to build, these cargo ships were nonetheless immensely profitable, and was responsible for Dutch living standards living standards being the envy of her larger European neighbors.
At the height of what historians have dubbed the Dutch golden age in the, roughly most of the 17th century, the company that owned many of these ships, the VOC, or Dutch East India company was the most valuable company in the world.
So what exactly did the ships responsible for this wealth, power and glory look like? What was it like to be a sailor on such a ship? And what were conditions like during the journey? How did they navigate? Join me as I thoroughly investigate the Batavia, a replica of a Dutch VOC ship built almost 400 years ago…..
■ WEBSITE: https://www.batavialand.nl/
– For more information on Batavia (the ship) or Batavialand (The Museum Complex) which also houses the ship, see their website for details. The money raised through ticket sales at Batavialand goes to the much needed maintenance needed to keep this marvel of engineering in mint condition so anyone who so wishes can experience it first hand.
■ GETTING THERE: The Batavia ship is located 50 minutes by taxi from downtown Amsterdam in the city of Lelystad. You can also take a train or bus for a much cheaper journey. There is also a VOC replica ship at the Amsterdam Maritime Museum. I recommend visiting them both but if you only have time for one, the Batavia ship of Lelystad offers a better experience as well as having more historical and technical information available on site from the staff and volunteers.
■ FRED AS GUIDE: If you wish to meet Fred, the fantastic guide you saw in this video, he volunteers on Tuesdays. Contact the museum for more details.
■ GREAT MOVIE ON DUTCH NAVAL HISTORY: Michiel De Ruyter (2015)