Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Duyfken

The Duyfken was built in 1595 in Holland. In 1606 it was plying the waters of the Spice Islands for the Dutch East India company. The Duyfken was the first European ship to visit any part of the coastline of Australia. This tiny ship landed on the western coast of Cape York and the landing party was immediately killed by the aboriginals. The replica is berthed here in Cairns and we walked over to check it out. This is the first old Dutch ship that we have seen. And after seeing it we now understand why the British referred to Dutch ships as being "slab sided."

This authentic replica was built in Australia and is as close to original as possible. They used the same type woods and sailed to Holland and back to Australia. It is such a tiny little ship with very limited headroom. A very special feature of this little ship is that she had 2 stern cannon. That was unheard of in 1606 and quite a surprise to any ship that engaged her in battle.

Instead of a normal tiller it has a whipstaff. The whipstaff greatly increases the amount of leverage on the tiller. A single man would never have been able to control this ship with a normal tiller. When the ship was originally built it was 50 years before a wheel helm was introduced.

Another feature were the double elm tree pumps. These were used to pump water from the bilge. The long handles by Aaron were used to activate these pumps. The actual elm trees were hollowed out and extended all the way from above deck down to the bilge. I don't know why elm is the wood of choice, but the British, French, Spanish and Dutch ships of that era all were built with elm tree pumps.

Because spices at that time were so valuable, it did not require a large ship to carry cargo worth a great deal. Just a handful of cinnamon was worth the price of a home with servants. Amazing to think that spices were so valuable back then.

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