26 December, 2006

VOC Dutch East Indiaman 'Amsterdam'

I'd spied this beauty on Sunday, when I went for a walk while waiting for my room to be ready, and upon closer inspection realized it was part of the Maritime Museum, and fully accessible. Score.

VOC ships like the Amsterdam sailed to the Far East between 1602 and 1795. The original Amsterdam sailed up the North Sea in 1749. In a raging storm the rudder snapped. The master decided to beach the brand-new ship on the south coast of England. Thus he hoped to save the people on board, the cargo and the vessel.

But the East Indiaman soon sank into the mud, never to be freed again. The wreck has provided archaeologists with valuable information about the construction of VOC ships, their cargoes and life on board.

When they created this replica as a museum ship between 1995 and 2000, the shipbuilders decided to make the upper cabins shorter than the lower cabins, thus reversing the true clearances of the ship in favour of more comfortable walking spaces belowdecks. While it makes for a more comfortable experience in the hold and the main deck, it makes the captain's quarters and the cabins too cramped. I wish they'd left it the way it should be, so that one could get the true feeling for what these ships looked and felt like.

That being said, it was mind-blowing, especially considering that Minerva, Jack Shaftoe's ship in The Barroque Cycle (I'm currently finishing The System of the World, the last volume), is fashioned after these very types of ships. It wasn't too big a leap to stand on deck and picture Captain Van Hoek, Dappa with his dreads, Tomba, Vrej Esphanian, Moseh, Danny & Jimmy Shaftoe, and Jack the Vagabond King himself bustling about the decks, conspiring in the Captain's quarters, or stuffing the cannons full of silverware. I even thought I spied Dr. Waterhouse taking a shite off the gallery head. . .

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