Interview speakers 2024

Unique shipwrecks and discoveries around Texel


You can almost set the clock by it. If a unique discovery has been made on the seabed around Texel, the hobby divers of Diving Club Texel are certainly involved. At Duikvaker the divers will tell you more about their world discoveries and our maritime heritage.

There are dozens of historic shipwrecks on the seabed off the coast of Texel, why is that?

From the 15e century, seagoing ships called at Texel. In the 16e century, the Seven United Netherlands dominated the Baltic Sea trade with the grain trade. Later the Mediterranean trade was added and in the 17e century the VOC, with trade to the East. 

The ships became too large to sail up the rivers fully loaded or to brave the shallow Zuiderzee and anchored behind Texel, on the Reede. 

Moreover, the fresh water of the Wezenputten turned out to be very suitable for long journeys. The Reede van Texel ran from Den Helder to Terschelling and was the anchorage for loading and unloading. Outgoing ships were supplied at Texel and waited for good wind and tide to depart. Waiting and restocking could sometimes take weeks. During a storm it could happen that one or more ships broke loose and became stranded or sank as a result of sandbanks or collisions. During the storm on Christmas night 1593, 140 ships were anchored on the Reede, of which 44 were wrecked. Returning ships could also have the misfortune of being wrecked near Texel, within sight of the port.


How does such an old wreck suddenly reappear after so many years?

As many of the many ships that crashed were salvaged and salvaged. Everything that could not be salvaged disappeared into or under the waves and later under the sand. The seabed is dynamic and the sandbanks move or sometimes disappear completely. For example, a shipwreck can remain in a sandbank for centuries and then suddenly wash free.  

One wreck is very special: the 17th century Palmwood wreck. Why has this wreck been in the news recently?

The most sensational find from the Palmwood wreck was a 17ecentury silk dress, with beautiful colors, which could be worn as is (after cleaning).


That wasn't the only dress found.

Many spectacular finds have been made, the most beautiful of which can be seen in 'our' museum Kaap Skil.

Is anything known about the origin of the ship, when does it date? 

One of the first finds was an ebony grade stick with the year 1636.

Due to other finds, it quickly became clear to us that it had to be a Dutch ship. Unfortunately, the wreckage could not yet be identified.

Why the name Palmwood Wreck?

Every wreck gets a name. It is often named after the charge. We found many tree trunks, which turned out to be palm wood. Palm wood comes from the Buxus tree, which we now have as a shrub in the garden. The wood was and is very valuable. 

We only found the famous dress years later. 


What else did the cargo consist of? 

We found a lot of ship inventory and ship parts. The cargo consisted of all kinds of products from the countries around the Mediterranean. We also found personal belongings, such as the dress. We will also discuss the other finds in the presentation.

Did the government actually take action after your discovery of the wreck?

Diving club Texel reported the wreck and raised the alarm several times because it became increasingly clear to us that the contents of a very important wreck were being washed away. Unfortunately, the government did not have the people and resources to take action at the time. 

At what point did it dawn on you that this find was so special?

It was immediately clear to us that these were very special and important finds. Nothing had to get through. 

It is actually not legally allowed to take anything from the Palmwood wreck. What is your view on this as Texel divers? 

The area of Burgzand Noord, in which we discovered the Palmwood wreck, was only declared a national monument in 2014. We have been diving on the wreck for years and know how mobile the seabed is and that all kinds of important finds would disappear if no action were taken. The dress was found in 2014, but most finds were made well before 2014. The heritage law, which stipulates that no finds may be taken at all, only came into effect in 2016. At that time, the Palmwood wreck was already covered and protected against decay by currents, pileworm attack and divers.


How strong is the idea of 'mainlander' and 'from the other side' on Texel? You received quite a lot of comments from the other side.

The comment of the Other people only came when it became clear that it was an important shipwreck. We had to defend our finds tooth and nail to keep them on the island. Fortunately, thanks to all the fuss about the dress, maritime archeology is back on the political map and money has been made available for underwater archaeology.

You go to the Rijksmuseum for the Night Watch, where are the dresses now? Can I see more wreck finds there?

The Dress, also called the Night Watch of the Wadden Sea, and other top finds are where they should be, in the Kaap Skil museum on Texel.

When we talk about our maritime heritage, the policy of the Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE) is to preserve the site. Does that work in practice?

In 2010, the maritime branch of the RCE was on the verge of death. The diving team responsible for underwater scientific research had been cut back. 

In situ conservation works well in land archaeology. Sand over it and nothing happens to the burial mound. It is also a good solution in standing water, such as in the IJsselmeer. After all, information is always lost during an excavation. In the Wadden Sea, in-situ conservation is a lot more difficult and maintenance of the cover is necessary.

Attention has been drawn to the cringe-inducing situation at the Palmwood wreck. There was no question of in situ preservation until the dress was found. You could see our collection campaign as an emergency excavation. Much has been preserved, but a lot of information has undoubtedly been washed away. Covering the Palmwood wreck is very unsatisfactory, because it produces no scientific or social benefits. Without support from the people, no money will come from The Hague. Are we back to square one?


If you leave a find lying around, doesn't it just wash away?

You have to use your common sense when it comes to heritage. If you simply allow finds to be washed away or lost, as happens in the Wadden Sea, you are not doing the right thing. By taking it with you and documenting it, you preserve your heritage and make research possible. In the Wadden Sea, finds protruding from the seabed are washed away and wood is eaten by shipworm. In-situ conservation, or covering, can be a good but temporary measure in some cases.

What does the Texel Maritime Heritage Foundation do?

The Texel Maritime Heritage Foundation is committed to preserving, researching, making visible, informing and caring for the maritime heritage on and around Texel.

You wrote a book about The Shard Wreck. Why does this wreck appeal to the imagination?

The shard wreck is believed to have been built in the 20se century have sunk. We found all kinds of artifacts from the first half of the 19e century. The Shard wreck, like the Palmwood wreck, sank upright, with a large part of the ship and its contents lying under the sand for years. Many discoveries were made, which made you increasingly curious about the origin and background.

Has a name been 'pasted' on this wreck?

A name was found at the Shard wreck. Most likely it was Pieter Anthony, who died in 1822. Unfortunately, there are people who have a different opinion because there is no conclusive evidence (such as the ship's bell). All the puzzle pieces found fit very well.


How often do you go out into the North Sea? 

Diving takes place on weekends if the weather permits. Unfortunately, this was too little in 2023.

Is wreck diving still fun if you are no longer allowed to take anything from the seabed? Or is an exception possible? 

There is a difference between wreck diving and diving on a wreck site. I believe that your common sense counts more than the heritage law. You don't leave an engine plate or ship's bell lying around an unnamed steel wreck, even if they won't wash away. Removing a wreck from anonymity is very important. Safeguarding artifacts that would otherwise be lost is just as important. If you find a stick with a year on it, you have also done a good deed. Without finds there is no story. Documenting and knowing what to do when taking finds with you is important. There are courses for this at the LWAOW.

Diving Club Texel is one of the guest speakers on February 3 and 4. Do you show photos and film footage of these dives? 

Nowadays there is always a camera on board to make recordings if possible. At the time when diving on the Palmwood wreck, there was no Go Pro, but a camera in an underwater housing. Photos were taken when visibility permitted. Videos have been made of mudflat diving with good visibility (more than 1 meter). Unfortunately, they are not from the Palmwood wreck, but from a later date and other wrecks.

What can I expect from the presentation as a visitor?

During the presentation we will try to take you into our adventures and our enthusiasm, in which our discovered dress naturally plays a leading role


Could the Palmwood wreck be salvaged in the future? 

If the will is there, there is a way. Most of the ship's hull, similar to the Batavia, but 10 meters shorter, is still in the sand. Similar wrecks are currently being found in the Baltic Sea. So it is not necessary for the ship construction. If you want to know what the load is – think of a few truck loads – research will have to be done. Mediterranean Sea salt as cargo in the hold would be a shame, but it would save on preservation costs. Another dress or a chest with the ship's coffers is also possible. The RCE is now conducting test excavations in the Wadden Sea to catch up on the many years' backlog. Fortunately, more people are curious.

Could Diving Club Texel still contribute?

Members of Diving Club Texel have now become acquainted with theoretical and practical aspects associated with an archaeological investigation through the LWAOW.

We have years of diving experience in the Wadden Sea, incomparable to other diving locations. The RCE does a lot to involve the Diving Club in their investigation of the wrecks off Texel. Unfortunately, there is no diving yet, as is done abroad. We hope that this course will be continued and that our many years of experience will contribute to future research.


Diving club Texel

The Texel Maritime Heritage Foundation is committed to preserving, researching, making visible, informing and caring for the maritime heritage on and around Texel.

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