The ship found was named The Rosswijk, owned by the Dutch East India Company. The vessel was bound for Jakarta, Indonesia in 1740 when bad weather led to its sinking on just her second voyage. Around 250 people in total were on board when the ship sank and it is thought none survived. Soon after the ship was found, a chest containing letters washed up at Deal in Kent.
It identified the captain as Daniel Rousiers, and named around a dozen other crew.
However, the identities of the rest of the victims were lost in time.
It was first discovered by a diver in 2005. But after preliminary excavations, it was covered up.
In 2016, Historic England and the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency warned that the vessel was in danger of being destroyed by an invasive shipworm, which began moving to British coastlines from the Mediterranean.
Alison James, one of the marine archaeologists involved in the research, said in 2017 that “there are several chests” with the biggest “about a meter long.”
She added: “They could contain anything—sword blades, metal, smaller personal items, or even silver.
“It’s incredibly breathtaking. All this stuff is no longer out of reach.”
The researchers salvaged silver in 2005 but were unsure how much.
The project leader, Martijn Marten, said that the riches had been returned to the Dutch government.
He added: “We have many questions. We do not even know what this ship really looked like.”
Mark Dunkley, a marine archaeologist for Historic England, said in 2016 the ship was found in an area he described as “underwater Pompeii”.
He added: “With the finds that we’re bringing up we’re seeing how they lived on board, and now with the remains we are seeing how they died as well.
“They were probably drowned or crushed as the ship collapsed or the cannons came loose and rolled across the decks.
“We have started finding and recovering bodies. It’s a highly significant assemblage because it is so rare to find a lost crew on a shipwreck, captured in time at the moment when a catastrophe happened. In that sense, it’s like an underwater Pompeii.”
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In June 2020, it was reported that the finds from the ship will be scanned using new X-ray equipment to reveal hidden details.
Historic England head Duncan Wilson said amid the news: “This generous investment will place Historic England at the forefront of heritage X-radiography for many years to come.
“With this new technology, we will be able to analyse, conserve and better understand many more objects recovered from historic shipwrecks or excavated from archaeological sites.
“We are very grateful to The Wolfson Foundation for their support to this vital grant.”