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Wreck of ZUYTDORP

The remains of the ZUYTDORP were found by Tom Pepper, an Indigenous stockman, in 1927 while searching for stray cattle among coastal cliffs north of the Murchison River along the West Australian coast. The identity of the wreck was a mystery for many years, until Pepper shared his story with geologist Phillip Playford in 1954. Playford was intrigued by the discovery and visited the site several times over the following years.
Coins recovered from the base of the cliffs revealed the wreck to be that of THE Dutch East India Company ship, ZUYTDORP. Built in 1701, the ZUYTDORP had previously made two passages to the East Indies when it set out in August 1711 on what proved to be its final voyage. One of the VOC’s largest ships, the ZUYTDORP carried a cargo of silver coins valued at 100 000 guilders for the Dutch colony in Batavia (modern Jakarta).
After leaving the Cape of Good Hope in April 1712, the ZUYTDORP was never heard of again. Unlike the other Dutch shipwrecks along the West Australian coast, no survivors arrived at Batavia.
Excavation of the wreck was undertaken during the 1960s and 1970s by the Western Australian Museum. Much of this work was concerned with recovering the numerous coins to deter looters from the site. Later research in the 1980s focused on survivor camps in an attempt to find out what became of the ZUYTDORP’s passengers and crew.
The wreck site at the Zuytdorp cliffs is protected by the 1976 Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act.