A 17th Century ship found off the coast of England has finally been identified by scientists and researchers.
Nearly four years after it was discovered off the Sussex Coast by Eastbourne dive operator David Ronnan, the vessel has finally been identified as the Klein Hollandia, a Dutch warship that sank in 1672.
The ship was built in 1656 in Rotterdam and was involved in all major battles in the second Anglo-Dutch war of 1665-1667, in which people fought for control over the seas and trade routes.
In 1672, the Klein Hollandia was part of the squadron led by Admiral de Haese to escort the Smyrna fleet while sailing from the Mediterranean en route to the Netherlands.
The ship’s squadron then fell under attack near the Isle of Wight by an English squadron under Admiral Holmes. This resulted in a fierce battle and ultimately the ship was boarded and conquered shortly before sinking where it would remain for the next 350 years.
The ship remained an unidentified wreck for some time after its discovery until specialists from Historic England working alongside the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands and the Nautical Archaeology Society banded together over the last year to identify the sunk vessel.
They used evidence gathered from the wreck such as cargo, as well as archival research. They even performed tree ring analysis of the wood samples to determine the ship’s origin.
The wreck is protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, meaning only licensed divers are allowed to dive to the wreck site. Since 2019, staff and volunteer divers from the Nautical Archaeology Society have undertaken 282 dives on the site and have built up a comprehensive model of what is left on the seabed. Much of the material is found to be in good condition, including the cannons and the pottery and marble it was carrying.
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England said, “investigating this internationally-significant Protected Wreck site has been an excellent example of partnership working between Historic England, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands and the Nautical Archaeology Society.
We’re delighted that Historic England’s material scientists have played a key part in solving the mystery of this shipwreck’s previously hidden identity.
Uncovering the story of the warship 'Klein Hollandia' opens up another fascinating chapter in the already rich, shared maritime history between the UK and the Netherlands.”
The ship will be featured on an episode of ‘Digging for Britain’ which airs on Sunday 29 January at 8:00 pm on BBC2.
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