A centuries old frigate lying at the bottom of the Gulf of Finland has been identified as belonging to the Admiralty of West Friesland, one of the five former admiralties of the Dutch Republic.
The 35-meter warship was reportedly built in Medemblik, the Netherlands in 1708.
The cold temperatures in the Gulf of Finland, 62 meters below the surface, allowed the vessel to preserve its wooden construction without loosing any of the cannons from its deck. What is more, one of the three masts on the vessel is still standing upright.
The Finnish Maritime Service found the ship around 10 years ago but it was only in 2014 that maritime archaeologists and deep-sea divers were able to dive down to investigate the wreck. The ship probably hit a rock, sprung a leak under the waterline and sunk straight down to the seabed.
According to the manner of construction, the ship could date from around 1700. After the discovery, the Finnish bureau SubZone carried out an investigation in Swedish and Russian archives to establish the identity of the so-called ‘Kalbådagrund gunship’. When it became clear that this was no Swedish or Russian ship, the information was shared with other countries.
Toward the end of 2015, there was rapid progress in the identification of the warship when the Medemblik historian Peter Swart found an old sea chart that showed the position of the shipping disaster. On the sea chart is the text ‘hier is het Noord-Hollands oorlogschip op gebleven 1715’ (‘here remains the North Holland warship 1715’).
From his research, it appears that, in that year, just one warship from North Holland did not return home. Municipal archaeologist Michiel Bartels contacted archaeologists in Finland to ask if they knew of a shipwreck in that spot.
The combination of the dimensions, the weaponry, the location and the old Dutch methods of shipbuilding meant that it is around 95% sure that this in fact concerns the frigate Huiste Warmelo.
A diving team from the Finnish research bureau SubZone is expected to dive down once again to the warship. The aim of this follow-up research will be to provide a definitive identification of the vessel. This can be done by taking wood samples for tree-ring dating to see how old the ship is, studying all manner of details such as the cannon and making a 3D model of the entire wreck.
However, most expectations relate to the study of the stern, the rear end of the ship. This is traditionally highly decorated and may perhaps show the name of the vessel.