Australia: Batavia ship from the same oak as Rembrandt’s and Rubens’ painters’ panels


Replica of BataviaFrom the Western Australian Museum:

New research work on timbers from the Dutch ship Batavia show that it was built from the same oak on which famous Flemish artists such as Rembrandt and Rubens painted their 17th century masterpieces.

Tree-ring dating shows that Western Australia‘s oldest ship timbers date back to seedlings growing in a Polish oak forest south of Danzig after 1324. In 1628, they were used to build the Batavia, which sank off Geraldton in 1629 on its maiden voyage to Indonesia.

By the time the ship was built in 1628, the wood beams sourced from the forests growing along Poland’s longest river was already 300 years old – making WA’s surviving timbers some of the oldest splinters in maritime history.

The link has been made for the first time by WA Museum maritime archaeology assistant curator Wendy van Duivenvoorde just after she received the results from a dendrochronology laboratory in The Netherlands.

Batavia struck grief off Morning Reef in the Abrolhos group of islands off Geraldton in 1629.

About 125 men, women and children died of ill health, drowned or were killed by mutineers who were later caught and hanged on the islands, about 60km from the WA mainland.

The wreck was discovered in 1963 and her timbers raised several years later.

Ms van Duivenvoorde said Batavia’s hull is the only surviving example of an early 17th century Dutch East Indiaman to be raised and preserved.

Until now, the hull had never been tree ring dated to determine how old or what type of oak it was, let alone the forest in Europe they had grown in – but a mix of patience and persistence has paid off, the historic timbers traced back to the same forest area on the Vistula River where Dutch painters sourced their solid wood panels or boards.

“Batavia’s timbers perfectly match the chronology established in the 1970s of Flemish painters‘ panels, which were made of oak,” she explained.

“Those Dutch panel painters used wood from a particular forest area in Poland where it was very fine-ringed, straight and easy to work with. So did the Dutch ship builders.”

Captain Cook: here.