The mystery of a shipwreck discovered in 2019 has finally been solved. Researchers studying the site off the coast of southern England discovered that the vessel was a Dutch warship used in “all major battles” of the second Anglo-Dutch war, Historic England announced Friday.
The Klein Hollandia was built in 1656 and owned by the Admiralty of Rotterdam, one of the five admiralties in the Dutch Republic. Initially labeled an anomaly after a hydrographic survey of the site was done in 2015, a diver confirmed it was a shipwreck four years later. It had since been known as the “Unknown Wreck Off Eastbourne,” until now. Teams from Historic England, the Nautical Archaeology Society, and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands worked on the find.
“From our very first dive on the wreck, back in April 2019, we have been fascinated by the range of material on the seabed,” Mark Beattie Edwards, CEO of the Nautical Archaeology Society, said. “The impressive amount of wooden hull structure, the ship’s cannons, the beautifully cut marble tiles, as well as the pottery finds, all point towards this being a Dutch ship from the late 17th century coming back from Italy. Now, after four years of investigation and research, we can confidently identify the vessel.”
Based on the perceived importance of the ship, the dive site received special protections under the United Kingdom’s Protection of Wrecks Act of 1973. Italian marble tiles, pottery, and cannons were found alongside a large portion of the wood hull 103 feet deep, according to Historic England. The group notes that the marble tiles would have been used for “high-status” homes in the Netherlands.
“The identification of the ‘Klein Hollandia’ offers a glimpse back into the seventeenth century, giving us a chance to learn more about the maritime history of this period and to uncover treasures which have been underwater for hundreds of years,” Lord Stephen Parkinson, the U.K. Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, said of the find.
The ship was a major asset in the second Anglo-Dutch war, which lasted from 1665-1667. Holding strong through the entirety of that war, it sank in March of 1672, shortly before the third Anglo-Dutch war. Historic England claims that the sinking of the Klein Hollandia contributed to the start of the third war, which began the same month as the sinking and lasted until 1674.
The ship was part of a squadron escorting a fleet traveling from the Mediterranean to the Netherlands. It entered the English Channel where it encountered a surprise attack from an English squadron, leading to a “fierce battle,” Historic England says. The commander of the ship was killed, and the English were able to board and conquer the ship. Finally, after taking on “severe damage,” the ship’s life came to an end, sinking with both English and Dutch sailors on board, researchers say.
Researchers used tree ring analysis of wood samples to help identify the ship and discovered through analysis using microscopes and mineral composition that the marble is from the Apuan Alps in Italy, an area that reportedly boasts some of the highest quality marble in the country.