The wreck of the Zeewijk was found by a fisherman in 1952. In 1962 the iron cannon was raised from the wreck and displayed at numerous locations. The citizens of Geraldton later purchased the cannon when it was discovered that the cannon was going to be sold to a scrap metal merchant. It now rests at Chapman Road, Geraldton for everyone to see.
On the 9th of June, 1727 the Dutch ship “Zeewijk” struck Half Moon Reef in the Abrolhos Islands on its way to Batavia (Now present day Jakarta), it was her maiden voyage.
A member of the crew who was on lookout had noticed the surf breaking earlier, but thought it was the reflection of the moon (how wrong he was). The Zeewijk crashed into the reef at approximately 7.30 o’clock at night.
Cold, angry and scared the crew blamed the skipper for their predicament, believing he sailed too close to the coast and refused to listen to the steersmen. Unfortunately for the skipper heavy swells prevented anyone from manning the longboats, so for over a week he had to ride out the waves with an angry mob.
When the longboat was finally launched a camp was set up on a nearby island (Gun Island). Interestingly some of the crew preferred to stay on the wreck than seek refuge on the island (they lasted a few months before having to eventually rejoin them). Wood and supplies were salvaged from the wreck.
A decision was made for 11 men under the command of 1st officer, Peter Langweg to sail in the longboat back to Batavia. About half of the 212 men on board survived. Of those men, eleven set off in a longboat but were never seen again. After seven months the remaining survivors built a makeshift sloop called “Sloepie” from the wreckage of the Zeewijk. They eventually made it to Batavia with the loss of six more men.
Interesting Facts About the Zeewijk
The ship was built in 1725 for the Zeeland Chamber of the Dutch East India Company. The following year the ship under the command of Jan Steyns and a crew of 212 departed for Batavia with a fair load of guilders (315,836).
The Zeewijk was the last VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) ship to be wrecked on the Western Australian coast.
John Forrest made mention of the survivors camp when he visited Gun Island to investigate guano mining on the islands.