This site was surveyed and assessed with the support of the Dutch Cultural Agency. A joint team from the Dutch Cultural Agency and the ShipLAB carried out a small number of dives on this site in 2012, in order to assess the condition of the shipwrecks and the viability of an archaeological survey of the sites.
The site was thought to contain relevant cultural information and from the pictures and video taken, and , a series of maps and animations of the site were produced using 3D rendering software, evidencing its enormous educational potential.
An extensive artifact catalogue has been produced by Rodrigo Torres.
One of the strengths of this project is the fact that although it has been stripped of most of its artifacts, the site still contains enough information to justify further archaeological research, and perhaps even retrieve information from the hull remains preserved under the two ballast piles.
The preliminary survey and assessment of this shipwreck were carried out by a Cultural Dutch Agency and ShipLAB joint team under the direction of Rodrigo Torres, in 2012.
Story of the Ship
Incorporated in 1621, the Dutch West India Company was inspired by the success of the East India Company (1602-1798) and aimed at supporting the Dutch colonization and related commercial activities, which included privateering actions, in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
In Brazil, the Company’s business developed around sugar production and a highly profitable slave trade. The Dutch occupation of northeast Brazil lasted from 1624 to 1654 and constitutes a rich period for the investigation of early modern geopolitics in the Atlantic.
On September 28, 1648, a Dutch fleet of seven sails under the command of Admiral Witte Corneliszoon de With was patrolling an area off All Saints Bay, Salvador, Bahia, when it encountered two Portuguese sails coming in from the sea, around noon. The Portuguese ships were Nossa Senhora do Rosário and São Bartolomeu, whose mission was to patrol the entrance of the bay.
During the battle that followed the ships Utrecht (32 guns) and Nossa Nenhora do Rosário (32 guns) sunk.
Their remains lie on the seabed, roughly 200 meters apart, at a depth of 18 to 20 meters. They have been heavily looted and salvaged by treasure hunters, and their condition was not known in detail, although it was believed that these sites were still important, from a cultural viewpoint.
The Dutch ship Utrecht sunk off Itaparica Island, in the waters of the state of Bahia, northeast Brazil, after an engagement with the Portuguese vessels Nossa Senhora do Rosário (32 guns) and São Bartolomeu (32 guns) in the later period of the Dutch West India Company presence in Brazil.
This site was found in the 1960s or 1970s, and heavily looted and salvaged by treasure hunters, and their condition was not known in detail, although it was believed that these sites were still important, from a cultural viewpoint.
Site Formation Process
The remains of Utrecht lie on the seabed, roughly 200 meters away from Nossa Nenhora do Rosário‘s shipwreck, at a depth of 18 to 20 meters.
The site exposed consisted of a scatter of iron guns and anchors, a disturbed ballast pile, and a small are with hull remains preserved.
The ballast pile extends over an area of roughly 10 x 40 m, and has been heavily disturbed by looting and treasure hunting activities.
Four anchors are preserved on the site: 440 cm, 381 cm, 378 cm, and 270 cm, and fragments of anther two or three.
A 1981 sketch by Tony Kopp shows 17 guns in sityu, and a 2001 sketch by Mauricio de Carvalho shows 19 guns in situ. A number of bronze guns said to have been recovered from this site are part of the Rio de Janeiro Naval Museum exhibition.
This site was looted and it is difficult to say much about its cargo and other fittings.
Keel: xx cm sided; xx cm molded;
Floor timbers: xx cm sided; xx cm molded;
Planking (three layers): xx cm sided; xx cm molded;
Ceiling: xx cm sided; xx cm molded;
Fasteners: treenails xx cm diameter
The hull remains were visible in four points, but the survey was strictly non-intrusive and it was therefore impossible to make an accurate description at this time.
There is only scanty information about the ship’s cargo because treasure hunters and looters destroyed the site and left no records of their work.
Some artifacts were recovered by treasure hunter Robert Marx and sold at auction by Christie’s Amsterdam B.V. in 1984, March 16. The catalogue (presented below as an appendix (Torres and Castro 2012) is titled Gold, Silver, Jewelry and Artifacts recovered from the wrecks of Dutch, Spanish and English 17th, 18th and 19th Century Ships (Amsterdam: Christie’s Amsterdam B.V., 1983).
Among the artifacts recovered were rare obsidian coins and some personal artifacts, as shown in the bibliography below.
No rigging remains have been recorded.
No reconstruction has been attempted.
We have published a catalogue of all the artifacts traced to this site and a book, as is indicated below.
Three outreach videos were developed as well:
A video of the fieldwork, Kotaro Yamafune, 2012.
A virtual visit to the site, Kotaro Yamafune, 2012.
The Itaparica Battle (1648), Kotaro Yamafune, 2012.
L. Borghuis, M.R. Manders (Eds.) 2016. The Utrecht (1648), shipwreck of the Dutch admiralty in the Baía de Todos os Santos, Brazil: its history from battle to archaeological assessment. Amersfoort: Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands.
Torres, R., and Castro, F., 2012. The Utrecht Research Effort, Typed Report on File in the Ship Reconstruction Laboratory, Texas A&M University.