For the past seven months, the VOC ship Amsterdam, which has been moored at the jetty of the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam (Het Scheepvaartmuseum) since 1991, has been undergoing major maintenance. Amongst other things, the underwater hull has been made watertight and the three masts of the East Indiaman replica were replaced.
The restoration of the VOC ship Amsterdam was a huge job. Because the museum was closed due to Covid-19, the National Maritime Museum was able to set aside more time to carry out the major maintenance. In total, over fifty people worked on the ship, including a carpentry and caulking crew, painters, riggers, masts makers, contractors and dockers.
The underwater hull has been made watertight by means of an age-old technique, caulking. The old seams of the ship were filled with 500 kilos of hemp rope and finished with an alternative tar product. A tough, lengthy job that was done entirely by hand. Bad wood parts were replaced and the ship was given a new layer of paint. In addition, the three entire masts including the yards were renewed. The ship is now fit for service for many years to come.
The maintenance was carried out at Damen Shiprepair Amsterdam and Damen Shiprepair Oranjewerf.
Replica and original vessel
The replica VOC Amsterdam was built in Amsterdam between 1985 and 1990 by an army of volunteers using a combination of modern tools and tools contemporary with the original vessel. The original VOC Amsterdam was built in 1748. It set sail from the island of Texel on its maiden voyage on January 8th, 1749, headed for Batavia (Jakarta, Indonesia).
Unfortunately, it encountered inclement weather soon after disembarking. Waylaid in the English Channel, an epidemic spread through the crew, some of whom began to mutiny. The chain of unfortunate events continued when, on January 26th, its rudder broke away and the VOC Amsterdam grounded just off Hastings. It is there still, occasionally visible at low tides.
VOC ship Amsterdam: what questions does it raise?
Once the museum is open to the public again, the ship will be accessible to visitors. Because of its strong connection with the history of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), the ship is an important part of the National Maritime Museum’s public programming and educational programmes.
With the ship’s return, the museum is launching a campaign to answer questions from the public and partners relating to VOC history, such as: were there slaves on board the Amsterdam? Are there stories about migrants on board? Is there information about the construction of this replica? Was this once a pirate ship? The museum takes these questions as a starting point for creating new storylines on board the ship. A part of this is the VOC Data Experience.
In the VOC Data Experience the visitor receives a tablet on which the data of over 500,000 VOC sailors appear in augmented reality. The visitor can work with the data or listen to six experts who answer questions such as: were there women on board of a VOC ship? What was the chance to return to Europe? Who deserves a statue? The National Maritime Museum offers the VOC Data Experience a platform to stimulate discussion about the eventful history of the VOC. As soon as the museum reopens, the experience will be accessible to visitors. The experience is a travelling exhibition that, after a period in The National Maritime Museum, can also be seen in other museums.
The docking of the VOC ship Amsterdam has been made possible thanks to the support of 370 donors, the participants of the BankGiro Lottery and the participants of Het Compagnie Fonds. The VOC Data Experience has been made possible by a contribution from the Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie (Incentive Fund for the Creative Industry).
Picture: The VOC Ship Amsterdam in front of the National Maritime Museum (by Eddo Hartmann/National Maritime Museum).
Watch a video about the maintenance carried out and of the ship returning to the museum below (in Dutch) as well as some extra pictures provided by Damen Shipyards.