Memorable Description of the East Indian Voyage

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Introductory notes

Willem Bontekoe published his journal describing his East Indian voyages in 1646 at Hoorn. Titled "Journal or memorable description of the East Indian voyage of Willem Bontekoe from Hoorn, including many remarkable and dangerous things that happened to him there" (Journael ofte gedenckwaerdige beschrijvinge van de Oost-Indische reyse van Willem Ysbrantsz. Bontekoe van Hoorn, begrijpende veel wonderlijcke en gevaerlijcke saecken hem daer in wedervaren ) the work soon became very popular. Relatively little is known about Willem Ysbrantsz(oon) Bontekoe himself apart from his own account. He was born in 1587 and enlisted in the Dutch East India Company in 1618. He was put in charge of the ship "Nieuw Hoorn" bound for Java, but suffered shipwreck and had to make an adventurous voyage to Java in lifeboats. The work also describes his subsequent career in East Asia. The Dutch did not only export spices, but managed to obtain a footing on the Coromandel coast and from there imported the widely-famed cloths into the Archipelago. In their pursuit to eliminate all other traders, they wanted to acquire a carrying monopoly in the Eastern world such as they already possessed in Europe. This text has been chosen to be part of the selections for this project for its narrative of the Dutch experience in the East Indies. Primary Sources: Willem Ysbrantsz Bontekoe. 2004. Memorable Description of the East Indian Voyage. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. Suggested Reading: HAKLUYT, RICIIARD. The Princi'pall Navigations. 12 vols. Glasgow, 1903-5.


Translatcd from the Dutch by MRS. C. B. BODDE-HODGKINSON AND PIETER GEYL, Lit. D. (Leyden), Professor of Dutch History and Institutions in the University of London with an Introduction and Notes by PROFESSOR GEYL

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[Behold here Bontekoe, on perilous voyage bent, By God’s good care preserved to all men’s wonderment. Hunger and thirst, storms, fire and sword, he did survive And stood i the midst of death, the only man alive. J.J.D.]
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1. Journal or Notable History of the East-Indian Voyages of Willem Ysbrantsz Bontekoe of Hoorn

IN the year of Our Lord 1618, the 28th December, I, William Ysbrantsz Bontekoe of Hoorn, set sail from Texel, being captain of the ship named New Hoorn, manned with 206 men, of size about 1,100 tons, the wind being East.

The 29th day we passed the Heads. The 30th day, in the evening, we sighted Portland, the wind still Easterly. The 31st day we passed Plymouth.

The 1st January 1619 we passed England’s End, the wind being the same, and set our course out to sea, S.W. by S.

The 2nd day the wind veered to S.E.; set our course S.S.W. with a stiff breeze. The 3rd day the wind changed to South with a stiff breeze; set our course to W.S.W. The 4th day the wind came S.W. with increasing force, so that we were compelled to take in our topsails. During the night the wind blew so hard that we took in the foresail and lay to westward with one sail.

The 5th at night we shipped three seas, so that the upper deck was half-full of water, and the men began to cry out ‘We’re sinking, we’re [Page 20] sinking, the bow gun ports are open!’ Hearing that I ran hastily to the forecastle and found the portholes to be closed, whereupon I called out to them ‘There is no danger!’ and said, ‘Look lively now, let a man go below to see if there may be water in the hold’, which was done at once and they found no water in the hold; so I ordered them to bale out the water with leathern buckets. But the men’s chests were slipping and shifting to and fro by the force of the water, so that they could hardly keep themselves on their feet to bale. So we were forced to break the chests to pieces with crowbars; then there was space to bale, and by God’s help we got rid of the water. We were then drifting without sails, but the ship swung so mightily that we were compelled to put up the sail again to steady her. We lay over to westward, the weather being very intemperate, with rain, so that the sea and sky did appear as if welded together, the whole sea foaming as if it were aboil. The 6th, 7th and 8th day it continued foul weather with rain. We saw that day many sea-fowl, which caused us to believe ourselves near the island Brazil, if such island there be, but we had no sight there-of.

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The 20th day the weather became fair and calm, and while drifting becalmed we bound our mast firmly and drew our main rigging taut and hauled our main topsail out of the top with the top-yard and put that up in place of our main-sail and the top-gallant instead of our main-mast with the top-gallant sail thereon, in which manner we made everything ready to sail and continue our voyage. Set our course for the Canary Islands, S.S.W., the wind being about S.E. with fair weather, and the pleasantness of the weather soon put us at our ease again.

The 21st day saw a sail astern of us that did her best (as we marked) to come near us; we turned to lee and waited for her. When near us we saw it was an East India-man that had sailed from Zealand on the 29 Dec. 1618, some days after we sailed from Texel. They were in good order and wanted nothing, nor had they suffered damage by the storm. The ship was named Nieuw-Zeelandt, the captain’s name was Pieter Tijsz of [Page 22] Amsterdam; we had good company of one another; we sailed near as fast as they though our sails were in a poor way, as related. Our course the same as before.

Held course for the Canary Islands, which we had sight of and passed; the wind was S.E. with fair weather, we had our top-sails up and looked to find the island of St. Anthony for our refreshing, yet by reason of much mist and rain could get no sight of it; therefore, for certainty’s sake, set our course for the island of Ile de Mayo or Ile del Foge. Coming there about, it became calm with variable winds and we were forced to tack before we could make it; we now got parted from our consorts since they came to the Ile de Mayo and we to the Ile del Foge, these islands lying near together. Arrived at the island we could find no anchorage, so ran close under the coast into calm water. We had brought with us from Holland a number of small masts and spars which we now got out, pushing them out backwards through the port and hauling them on deck. We sawed a spar of 14 palms through length-wise and made two fishes and fixed them (besides two other fishes) against the mast, which made our mast as strong as it had been before. At the same time we sent our [Page 23] sloop to the coast to fish and being come close to the shore the Spaniards came with loaded muskets on to the beach and shot at our boat, to show they did not want our men to land; so they came back to us bringing but little fish. That evening we departed from the lee of the before-mentioned island and set our course to pass the Æquinoctial Line.

While lying by this island there came a great shower of dust off the land, as if there had been a fire, and clung to the rigging of the ship so that it was as white as if strewn with white ashes. The next day, in the morning, when the cook had made ready the breakfast, we saw two sails behind on our lee, took in our topsails and held towards them. Being come near them, they were our two companions, to wit: the ship Nieuw Zeelandt and the ship Enkhuysen whom we lost sight of in the night by the islands Ile de Mayo and Ile del Foge; we rejoiced greatly, visited one another on board and related our adventures. They told us how they had been on land on Ile de Mayo for their refreshing, but had found nothing and lost two of their men who were slain by the Spaniards, one of whom came from Hoorn by name Ysbrant Dirckz.

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under the line it was calm, but at times we had great gusts of wind with rain, the wind coming from all points so that we wasted three weeks before we could cross the Æquinoctial Line. By night the sea appeared as it were all afire and foaming, it seemed as if sparks of fire shot out from the bow of the ship, but by day it ceased; this (more than common) fire of the sea did greatly astonish all of us. Set our course to get above the Abrolhos, having a S.E. wind. Coming up to the Abrolhos the wind stilled and we feared we could not get to windward of them, yet on nearing them the wind came up, but even so we ran so near that we had sight of the outside islands; thus we came to windward of them by God’s help, which rejoiced us all, for had we failed in this we should have been forced to make a long journey with the peril of having many of our men sick. We gave the men that day double ration of food and to every mess a can of Spanish wine. Set our course for the islands of Tristan d’Acunha. And after we had sailed for several days we were at the height of these same islands yet had no sight of them. The wind now being N.W. we bore eastwards to make the Cape of Bonesperance [Good Hope]. After holding this course for some time we saw black-specked gulls of which occasionally we caught some, with sticks covered with a piece of fat and hooks to them, and so pulled them into the ship by way of pastime.

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We kept our course along the coast to the land of Terra de Natal. In passing this coast the weather was very fair, we visited aboard one another and made good cheer. And the ship Enkhuysen being destined for the coast of Coromandel, she took leave of us and set another course as so to run inside the island of St. Laurentius, otherwise named Madagascar, and so further to the Mayottes to refresh themselves there; we took leave and wished one another a prosperous voyage.

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When we had sailed for a long time after we separated, being at the height of 23 degrees South of the Æquinoctial Line, we had every day many who fell sick, by reason of which the officers (on the part of the common men) came into the cabin asking that we should go to the island of Madagascar for refreshing; they feared all our men would become sick, for about forty of them lay in their beds and many others did complain of being out of sorts. We therefore resolved with the whole council to hold a steady course to the island of Madagascar, to a Bay named Sancta Lucia. Coming near the coast we could see no place to bring in the ship; we put out our boat and I went with the boat well-manned to the shore the ship holding in and off near the land. Approaching the coast in the boat we found the sea beat so furiously on the shore that there was no chance to get into it; we saw many people come on the shore and one of our men sprang overboard and got to them, but he could not understand them, they waved their hands downwards as it were to say that there was a place to land. These folk, as far as we could see, had no fresh food with them; so we must needs go back empty-handed to the ship. And when we came on board (much as we hated it) without refreshments, the sick were grieved beyond measure. We resolved to go out to sea again and hold South to the height of 29 degrees, then veered and sailed East by South till we came to [Page 27] 17 degrees South of the Æquinoctial. Then our men again begged that we should make land to seek for refreshment, which we agreed to do seeing that every day more of our men fell sick and some died. Therefore it was resolved to make for the island of Mauritius or the island of Mascarenhas and we set our course between the two, for these islands lie near together. So we struck the East end of the island of Mascarenhas, sailing close round the corner along the shore, found 40 fathom depth close to land and cast anchor, but it was an incommodious place for the ship to lie, being too near the shore. As we lay there the sick crawled out of their berths and would fain have got on land; but the sea running very high, we were afraid to take the sick with us to land; so we sent out the boat to examine the place and coming on land did find the dung of turtles and so returned to the ship; the sick kept on entreating to be put on land for they smelt the air saying: ‘Were we only on shore we were half cured of our sickness’. [Page 28] the crew helped the sick into the boat, and I ordered a sail to be given them for making a tent, also oil and vinegar, pans to cook with as well as victuals also cooks to look after the sick and cook for them, then we went directly to the shore. Being on land they crept together in the grass saying, ‘We feel better already’, and looking about we found a great many doves in the trees, of those blue field-doves. They let themselves be caught by hand or killed with sticks, having no sense to fly away. We took that day about two hundred, brought them to the fire and fell a-boiling and a-roasting for the sick as well as for those in health. We found also many land-turtles; these we boiled with Damascus plums, of which we had brought plenty with us from Holland. I then returned to the ship leaving the sick (about forty in number) with the cooks on shore.

In the bay we went on shore and found there a great lake of water not quite fresh, the reason of which we judged to be that being no more than three ship’s lengths from the coast the salt sea water leaked through the sand and so made the other salt as well.

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Coming further inland we found great number of geese, doves, grey parrots and other birds, also many land-turtles; seeing as many as twenty to twenty-five lying in the shade of a tree, so that we could have as many as we desired. The geese were not wise enough to fly up when we pursued them, and we beat them to death with sticks without their making a motion to fly. There were also some dodos that had small wings yet could not fly, they were so fat they could scarce move and as they walked dragged their backend along the ground.

And what we most did marvel at, when we held one of the parrots and other birds and squeezed it till it screamed, there came all the others from thereabout as if they would free it and let themselves be caught as well, so we had enough of them to eat. Having seen this we returned with the boat to the ship that (as stated) was about five miles distant from that place. Being again on board we related our adventures, how we had there found a good road in a sand-bay and good and safe anchorage for the ship. At this they all rejoiced exceedingly; we took the boat and brought the news to our men whom we had set ashore in sight of the ship, how we should sail the ship five miles from there and then return to them; with which they were well content.

Whereupon coming on board we weighed and anchored again in the above-mentioned sand-bay in thirty-five fathom and made fast both fore and aft; we let the most of our men land to seek out what they could find; and gave order for eight [Page 30] men to fish with the net in the inland water (which was spoken of) to see if they could get food for the crew. They went to work and caught good fish, that is hard and other fish also, some of the size of salmon and a fine flavour and fat. We found also fresh water: a small river that came down into the sea from the mountains, the which on both sides was grown over with small trees very fair, and the water flowing between as clear as crystal; therefore we brought all our water-barrels to land and filled them from that river leaving them to stand till the time we should go aboard or such time we might think fit. On this before-mentioned island of Mascarenhas there live no people. Our men wandered over the island almost from end to end and gathered what they would, feeding themselves with the birds and fish. They roasted the birds in good manner on sticks, taking the fat from turtles to smear them with, which made them so delicate it was a pleasure to eat thereof. We found also running water with great eels therein. The men took off their shirts and held them open in the flowing water so catching them [Page 31] in their shirts, and the taste of them was excellent.

Here we saw a thing that amazed all of us; to wit: how the turtles came up out of the sea at morning on the shore and, scratching a hole in the sand, laid their eggs in great numbers, a hundred, nay up to two hundred, scratching sand again over the eggs, which by the sun that did shine by day with great heat, were hatched and young turtles came out from them. We looked at them with wonder for their shells were were no bigger than large nut-shells.

There we found also some sugar palm trees from which we took wine as sweet to the taste as whey. There we saw goats, but so wild we could not procure any but one so old that his horns were eaten up with worms. Not fit to be eaten by human beings.

And while we were thus occupied each day, the sick whom we had put on land (as described) did all return to us, all in good health save seven who remained there; these we afterwards brought back in the boat to the ship.

We tarred the ship within and without, setting open all the scuppers so that air would blow through, and sprinkled her in many places with vinegar; all to make a good wholesome air in the ship.

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At last we made our ship ready again to set sail. Put up our sails, carried our water aboard and sent a drummer on shore to beat and call all our men together; we took with us in the boat about a hundred turtles to the ship. We had good store of all things, turtle, birds, fish caught and dried by the men. We in the cabin had a whole barrel of geese laid in vinegar, being part-cooked, in addition also good quantity of fish laid in vinegar to preserve them. And after we had lain there twenty-one days and were got ready, we hoisted sail, crossed over keeping close to the wind, hoping to make the island of Mauritius but came to leeward of it, we had good sight of it but could not come at it. For though we lay so long at the island of Mascarenhas and had our fill of all that was on the island, yet not all our men had recovered their health, there were many who did still complain. For this reason, the officers in name of the men came to us in the cabin to ask were it not advisable to seek another place for our refreshing, because the men were not wholly recovered and we had still to go a long way South before we should come in the monsoon winds that should profit our voyage to Batavia or Bantam, so that it might prove too hard and the men again fall sick. Whereupon after a long deliberation with the ship’s council, we thought good to make for [Page 33] the island Sancta Maria that lies close to the coast of Madagascar, before the great Bay of Antongil.

The people of the country seeing us, set out at once in a proa (being a small boat hewn from a tree) and came aboard us, bringing with them some apples, lemons and rice and fowls; they gave us to understand that they had more of these things on land and brought with them but a vacher. By signs with their mouth they showed us very plainly they had also oxen, sheep, calves, fowls and other creatures; they shouted moo, ba, cockadoodledo, that was cow, sheep and fowls. We did much marvel at these people. We gave them wine to drink from a silver bowl, yet they had not the sense to know how to drink therefrom, but stuck their head or face in the basin and drank as does a beast from a bucket, and when the wine was in them they did bawl like as if they were mad.

These people were stark naked save for a cloth round their middle to hide their private parts; they were in colour a yellowish black.

We went every day on land to barter calves, sheep, rice and milk for bells, spoons, brass-handled knives and beads.

The milk they brought within leaves woven together, in form like to a cabbage. From which when we came aboard we cut the leaves, and the [Page 34] milk flowed out. Apples also and lemons we got, but of these they had but few. Therefore, we resolved to sail with the ship two or three mile further, so weighed anchor and came to another place. And coming on land we found there also few apples; but some watermelons and Spanish bacon. We then determined that I should man the boat and go over to the land of Madagascar to see whether there I could traffic for some apples and lemons, which I did. We came to a river and rowed up it a mile or more; and we should have continued further but the trees on both sides of the river did so lean over, yea, till they touched one another, and the waterway in the river became so narrow we were forced to come back. We saw there no people at all, nor fruit, and returned therefore empty-handed. We slept one night on shore and (having been out three days) came in good safety again to the ship. Next day we went again to the island where the ship lay and there procured some more lemons, apples, milk, rice, and bananas.

During the time that we lay there all our men were cured of their sickness and became as cheerful and healthy as when we first sailed out of Holland.

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The 9th day that we had lain there, our men being as above-said, in good health and cheerful, we canted our ship as far as we could venture and cleansed it by scraping and scrubbing, and then set sail, lay to South till at the height of 33 degrees and then veered again eastwards and set our course for the Strait of Sunda. And coming at the height of 5½ degrees, being that of the aforesaid Strait of Sunda, being the 19th day of November, 1619, on that day when drawing the brandy from the cask it was set on fire.

Thereby the brandy was set afire and flamed up out of the cask, the heads of the cask burst and the burning brandy ran down into the ship where the smith’s coals lay.

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[The Shipwreck.]
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Lying thus I saw no living creature whatsoever way I looked, and while I lay in thought, there a young man did bubble up beside me, beating with hands and feet and he got hold of the point of the prow (that had drifted up again) saying: ‘I am all right’. Then I looked round and said: ‘O God, is there still a man alive?’ This young man was named Harmen van Kniphuysen, from the Eider region. I saw near him a spar or yard floating and because the mainmast (on which I lay) rolled continually from side to side so that I could not well remain on it, I said to him: ‘Push that spar towards me, I will lie on it, then pull me to you and we can sit together’. This he did and I came to him. The reason why I could not otherwise have come to him was that in being blown up I was sorely hit. My back was much hurt, I had two [Page 43] holes in my head, nay, it was so bad that I thought, ‘O Lord! in a little while I shall be dead’. Yea, it seemed that my sight and hearing were going. We sat here side by side each with his arm round a rib of the ship’s forepart. We stood up and looked out for the longboat and yawl; and at last had sight of them but they were so far off that we could hardly see if it were the head or the stern that faced us. The sun was come down to the water ready to set. I said to my comrade: ‘Harmen, it seems that our hope is lost, for it is late, the sun goes down, the boat and sloop are so far we can scarce see them; the ship is gone to pieces and we cannot endure long on the wreck; therefore let us pray God Almighty to deliver us’. We did so and prayed God earnestly for deliverance; which was sent us, for as we again raised our eyes, there were the sloop with the boat nigh us at which we rejoiced exceedingly.

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By night the cold was so great that the men’s teeth chattered, yet by day so hot that one felt like dying of heat, for the sun was mostly right overhead. The 21st, 22nd and 23rd November we put together a sextant to take our height; cast a quadrant on the quarter deck and drew a stick with a cross piece therefrom. We had the coffin-maker, Teunis Sybrantsz, of Hoorn, in the boat, he had a pair of compasses. He also had some knowledge of drawing a stick so that together in that way we made and shaped a sextant, with which we shot the sun. I also cut a sea-chart on the board aft and laid the island of Sumatra therein, with the island of Java and the Strait of Sunda that runs in between the two islands. And that same day wherein we lost the ship, in the afternoon I had taken the height of the sun and found 5½ degrees South of the Æquinoctial Line, and the specification on the chart showed about [Page 47] ninety miles from land. I also cut a compass therein, and measured each day with a pair of compasses by guesswork and set the course seventy miles to the side or above the hole, so as the better to know what direction we must take if we saw land. We sailed thus by the shooting with our sextant and by our measuring.

From the seven or eight pounds of bread I gave each man every day his portion so long as it might last, but it was soon finished. Each man had every day a piece the size of a finger-joint. We had no drink; therefore when it rained we took down our sails and spread them across the boat and caught up the water on the sail and stored it in our two barrels, and when these were filled we put them aside for a day when it was dry and no rain fell. I cut off the toe of a shoe and each man came to the barrel and filled it and drank and returned to the place where he had sat. And although we were in such distress, the men said: ‘Captain, take as much as you will, for in any case it is not enough for all of us.’ Seeing their courtesy, I would not have more than they did. [Page 48] The distress among us was great; we had no more bread and could see no land. I continually made the men believe that we were near land, so they should keep of good courage, but they began to murmur against it among themselves and said one to another: ‘The Captain may say we are sailing towards land, but maybe we are sailing away from land’.

On a certain day (when it seemed that we could endure no longer without food) God Almighty sent sea-gulls to fly over the boat, verily as if they desired to be caught, for they flew almost into our hands, letting themselves be caught. We plucked off their feathers and cut them into small pieces and gave some to each man, we ate them raw and it tasted to me as good as any food that ever I did eat in my life; yea, it tasted as sweet honey in my mouth and throat. Had there only been more of it, it was just enough or hardly so much as to keep us alive, and no more.

And seeing that no land yet came in sight we became so disheartened that the men resolved (when those on the yawl again begged they might come to us) to take them in, for as there came no deliverance by land we feared that we must die of hunger and thirst and if we must die then we resolved rather to die all of us together. We then took over the men from the yawl into the boat and took all the oars out of the yawl with the sails, and placed them in the boat. We had then in the [Page 49]

[Seeing no land yet came in sight, we resolved to take them in.]

[Page 50] boat a sprit-sail, fore-sail, main-sail and mizzen-sail. We had also about thirty oars, we laid them across the thwarts as an orlop. The boat was so deep that the men could sit comfortably on their bottoms under the oars, so we set one-half of the men beneath the oars and the other half above the oars and could thus dispose the men conveniently. We were then seventy-two persons in the boat; and looked upon one another most woefully, having neither food or drink. There was now no more bread, nor did the sea-gulls come any more and it would rain no more.

Now when there seemed again the poorest prospect of keeping our lives, all unforeseen there came (by the Lord’s mercy) bursting up out of the sea a school of flying fishes about the size of a large smelt, like a flock of sparrows they flew into the boat. Then there was a general grabbing and snatching, each doing his utmost to catch them. We divided them among us and ate them raw, they tasted sweet as honey, but they did not carry us very far. It refreshed us more or less and prevented (by God’s help) that any of us died, which was a marvel, for the men were already beginning to drink sea-water in spite of my warnings. I said to them: ‘Men, drink no salt water for it will not cure your thirst; you will get dysentry therefrom and die’. Others chewed shot and musket-balls, others drank their own urine. I drank my own urine as long as it was good, but it became later unsuitable for drinking.

Our distress became every day greater and heavier to bear, and the men began to look with [Page 51] such despair, distrust and malevolence at one another as if almost they would devour each other, verily they did speak of it among themselves, deeming fit to eat first the boys, and when these were finished, they should draw lots who should be the next one; I was sore troubled at this and in great distress of mind prayed to God Almighty that in his Fatherly compassion he would have mercy and not let it come to this; that he would not afflict us beyond our endurance, knowing the weakness of his creatures. I cannot express how the fear of this proposal did oppress me, the more because (so I judged) I saw some who would have begun to kill the boys, yet (with God’s help) I dissuaded them, praying for the boys and said: ‘Men, let us not do this thing. God will deliver us, for we cannot be far from land, as shown by our daily measurements and shooting’. They answered: ‘You have told us that many times, yet we find no land; yea, maybe we are sailing away from the land’; they being much dissatisfied. Whereat they fixed with me the time of three days, after which if we came not in sight of land, the boys should be eaten. Truly a desperate resolve! So I prayed to God most fervently to look graciously upon us and bring us before that time to land, that we might commit no abominations before His eyes. The time passed and our distress was so great that we could bear it no longer. We thought many times: were we but on land, it would not matter if we might eat nothing but grass. I diverted the men with such comfortable counsel as I could at that time call to [Page 52] mind. I said they must be of good courage, that the Lord would provide, but I myself was but faint-hearted, would give comfort to others yet was myself in need to be comforted. I spoke many words that my heart misgave me. We endured and suffered thus together and became so faint and feeble that we had scarce strength to stand. Heyn Rol, the Merchant, had come to such a pass that where he sat there he stuck and could come no further. I had so much energy left that I could move from one end of the boat to the other. We drifted thus as God directed till the second day of December, 1619, being the thirteenth, day of our losing the ship. It was then a clouded sky with rain and calm; we loosened the sails, spread them across the boat and crept all together under the sails and filled our barrels full of water. The men had very little clothing by their setting out with such haste and their shirts were made into sails, as before related; most of the men had no more on than a linen drawers and the upper part of them bare. They crept in this way together under the sails (to get warmth) and I stood at the time at the rudder and did surmise we were nearing land. I hoped it would clear while I stood at the helm, but it continued misty. I became so cold through the fog and damp in the air that I could keep no hold on the rudder any longer therefore called to one of the quartermasters and said: ‘Come and relieve me of the helm, for I can hold out no longer’. Then came the quartermaster and relieved me and I crept under to the men to gain warmth.

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The quartermaster had not stood an hour at the helm when the mist began to clear and he looked and forthwith he saw land. He cried out with great rejoicing: ‘Come out men, there is land, just in front of us! Land! Oh, Land!’ You should have seen with what speed we came out from under the sail. We set up the sails again and sailed to the land; we came that same day to land. God Almighty be praised, who thus answered our prayers and entreaties; for we prayed morning and evening with fervent worship of God and sang a psalm before and after our prayer, for we had a few psalmbooks with us. Most of the time I had acted as clerk, but later when the reader came out of the yawl into our boat he did it himself.

On coming to the land, the sea ran so high on to the shore that we dared not land, but we found on the inside of the island (for island it was) an inlet; there we let fall the grapnel and having another one we set it on to the land so that the boat was moored head and stern, and we sprang (as well as we were able) all men on shore, going each his way to forage. But as soon as I was on land I fell on my knees, kissing the earth with joy and thanking God for His mercy and compassion that He had not tried us but thus far helped us out; for this day was the last of those after which the men had resolved to attack the boys and eat them. By this was shown that the Lord was the best Steersman Who did guide and steer us till we made the land, as I have related.

We found on this island abundance of coconuts, but could not find (what we sought) fresh [Page 54] water; we satisfied ourselves therefore with the sap of the young coco-nuts which was a good drink. And we ate of the old nuts that had become hard; this we did too eagerly, without forethought, for the same night we all fell grievously sick with such distressful pain and cramps in the stomach and belly that we were like to burst. We crept together in the sand, each one groaning his hardest; after that purging of the bowels did begin to work, by which we felt immediate relief; the next day we were recovered and almost made the round of the island. We found there no people, but did see signs of people having been there. Here was no other thing to eat save coco-nuts. Our men told me they had sight of a snake that was as much as a fathom thick, but I saw it not myself.

This island lies about fourteen to fifteen miles from the coast of Sumatra. We brought as many coco-nuts as we could into the boat for provision, the old nuts to eat and the young ones to drink from. At evening we weighed and went off from the island to the coast of Sumatra; the following day we had sight of it. We came near, kept in along the shore with the wind behind us, held East until the nuts were finished. Then the men desired again to go on land; we sailed close along the breakers on the coast, but found no place to land because the sea ran so high.

[Page 55]

At last they found a river. And they took off their hose and waved to us that we should come in there. Seeing which we sailed directly thereto. Being come, there lay a bank right before the mouth of the river on which the seas beat with such force that I said; ‘Men, I shall not go in here, save with the consent of every man, for should the boat capsize you shall not reproach me with it’. And being asked, every man in his turn, what they said, they answered, Yea, they would venture it. Then I said: ‘I venture my life with yours’. I hastily gave order that at the stern of the boat they should put out an oar on each side and two men at each oar. I stood at the helm to keep the boat straight ahead. In this way we went into the breakers. The first sea that came plunged the boat half full of water. I called out: ‘Bale out, men! Bale out!’ And they baled, with hats and shoes and with the empty barrels we had in the boat; and threw most of the water out. Then came the next sea; this threw the boat full of water almost up to the thwarts, whereby she lay so vilely as if ready to sink. And I called to them: ‘Men, hold straight, hold straight! Bale out, bale out, or we are all dead men’. We drove straight before the sea and baled out all the water we could. Then came the third sea and that fell short of us so that we took in but little water and then it was at once calm water. So with God’s help we came through.

[Page 56]

We tasted the water and it was already fresh, at which we all rejoiced exceedingly, and we moored the boat to the land on the right-hand side of the river. Coming on to the land it was overgrown with long grass and looking round we saw beans among the grass like to the Eider beans. Then all men sought for them and ate them. I myself did my best, thinking: ‘I had better try to get my share’, and our men walked a little beyond. There they found a fire with some tobacco lying beside it, at which we rejoiced greatly. It seemed that people of the country had been there, kindled fire and having smoked tobacco had left some of it lying either by accident or on purpose. We had two axes in the boat; with these we hacked down trees and cut off the branches, and made fires in five or six places. There our men in companies of ten or twelve stood or sat around and smoked tobacco. When it was evening we made blazing fires and set a watch in three places for fear of the inhabitants of the country, for there was no moon.

Now that same night we became so ill from the beans which we had eaten that we were like to burst with the pain and cramps in our bellies (the same as overtook us before with the coco-nuts). And while we were lamenting, the inhabitants of the land came with intent to slay us all.

[Page 57]

In the morning when it was day and the sun had risen, there came three of the inhabitants out of the woods on to the beach. We sent to them three of our men who could speak some Malay for they had been in the East Indies before and partly learned the speech.

they came to us near the boat and asked if we also had arms, We gave answer: ‘Yea, plenty of arms, muskets, powder and shot’. I had the sails put over the boat so that they could not see what was within. Then they brought us rice, that was boiled, and several fowls. We inquired of one another what money we had and put it together. One brought out five, another six, another twelve, some more, some less, reales of eight, so that altogether we had [Page 58] about eighty reales of eight, from which money we paid for the fowls and rice they brought us. Having these I said to the men: ‘Now men, sit down together and let us first eat our belly-ful and then see how it is’. The which we did. The meal being finished we consulted what was to be done in order to supply ourselves with what was needful. And as we were not sure of our latitude, we inquired of them the name of their country,but could not understand it clearly, but thought it to be Sumatra.

we needed more victuals to continue our voyage, we resolved that I with four of the men in a proa should go up the river to the village that lay a way up, and with the money we had, buy victuals there as much as we could procure.

Which I did and we went up the river. Being come into the village we bought rice and fowls, which we sent to the boat to Heyn Rol the Merchant, giving order that each should have his portion so there should be no quarrelling, and I with the four men in the village then had two or three fowls boiled with some rice; we sat down together and ate as much as we would. There was [Page 59]

[There stood a great company of the inhabitants chattering most vehemently amongst themselves.]

[Page 60] drink too, which they take out of the trees, it is so strong that a man may well become drunk by it. We drank thereof with each other, after we had eaten. While we ate, the people of the town sat round about us and looked upon every bite we took.

After our meal I bought a buffalo for 5½ pieces of eight, but the buffalo being paid for we could not get hold of him because of his great wildness; did thereby lose much time, and it growing late in the day, I would return to the boat with the four men: the buffalo, so I thought, we could catch the following day. But hereover the four men did beg me to allow they might stay there that night, saying that at night when the beast lay down they would secure him. Although I did advise against this, at last by their continued insistence I yielded. I took leave of them and we wished one another good-night.


[Page 63]
[There came running from out of the woods two or three hundred men.]

[Page 67] We set our course and sailed before the wind along the coast. We had still eight fowls and a small store of rice in the boat, and that for fifty-six persons which we then were. Verily, but a small portion for so many men! We divided it and gave each his share. These victuals spent, we consulted together that it were best to seek land again, seeing we had already great hunger and in the sea we could get nothing at that time to feed on. We therefore turned again towards land, and seeing a bay we sailed into it.

[Page 68]

We found there no victuals, but there was fresh water, of which we drank as much as we would; filled up our two barrels with it, and took the boat round the cliffs. There we found small oysters and winkles; and each one gathered his pocketful. At the place where we lost our four men, I had bought a hatful of pepper, which was now a good seasoning to the oysters and warmed our stomachs mightily.

We sailed again out of the bay and stood out to sea to continue our voyage. Being still not far from the land we fell into a storm of wind so that we were forced to take down our sails, these we furled across the boat and crept everyman under sails and let ourselves drift at God’s mercy till some two hours before day, then the wind lessened and we had again fair weather.

Now when day was come we saw three islands lying ahead of us; we resolved to sail thither, thinking there were no people thereon, but we had hope to find something to refresh ourselves; we came there that same day.

[Page 69]

There we found at once fresh water and saw great reeds growing as thick as a man’s leg, these we cut down with our axes. These reeds are named bamboos. We pierced through the joints with a stick all save the lowest joint, we poured water into these and put stoppers on and by these means we got as much as two tons of fresh water into the boat. We found also palm trees which in their tops were so tender as it were the pith of rushes; these we also cut down and took with us such as were good for victuals. Our men wandered through all the island foraging, yet could find nought else of any worth.

[Page 72]

Thereupon we called the men together and they brought water in the bamboos and the tops of palm trees which we had gathered for victuals into the boat, and we put off

We sent a man to climb the mast; he looked ahead and called out: ‘I see ships lying!’ and he counted twenty-three of them. Hearing that we sprang up for joy. Then speedily put out the oars and rowed that way, for it was (as related) calm. Had we not found these ships here, we should have sailed on to Bantam, where we should have been caught in a trap, for they were at war with our nation, the which was a remarkable providence of God for us. We thanked the Lord for His goodness in this matter.

These were all Dutch ships; their commander was of Alkmaar, named Frederik Houtman. He stood at that time in the gallery looking through his telescope or glass towards us, being much amazed at our marvellous sails, not knowing who it was. He sent out his pinnace which rowed towards us to see what kind of folk we were.

[Page 73]

Houtman at once ordered a pinnace to take me and the Merchant to Batavia. And after we had related to him all our adventures and misfortunes, we went into the pinnace and set sail. We came the next morning before the town of Batavia. The men we knew on the ships had already supplied us with Indian clothes so that we were in good trim before we came into the town.

[Page 77]

went on to all forts in the Moluccas and provided them with meat, bacon, rice, oil, vinegar and other necessaries. We lay at the island of Maleyen (where the governor Jan Dirckz ’tLam had his residency), about three weeks; took leave of ’tLam and returned to Batjan, where we (as related) had left our merchant Heyn Rol, who had command of the fort. He gave us about 200 tons of cloves. We than sailed across the Boggeronis or Strait of Boeton. Ran through the Boggeronis, then across to sail above the shoals straight to Java Minor or Little Java and so along the coast to Gresse. On coming to Gresse we loaded as many bullocks and fowls as we could put in, in number about ninety beasts and sixteen hundred fowls, with some geese and ducks. We gave them paddhi for food. Sixteen fowls could be had there for a real of eight. Took leave again of the merchant Wolter Hudden and set our course along Java. We sailed close by Japara but did not touch it; continued our journey and came safely to Batavia. Here we spoke again with the General Coen of Hoorn. Unloaded our ship. That done I was sent with the same ship to Jambi, to fetch from there a shipload of pepper.

[Page 78]

Then the General sent me to the islands that lie off the route from Bantam to Batavia1 to fetch stone that lies there on the ground. They gave me forty lascars to drive and fasten them to the ropes so as to haul them into the boat. These are large stones which they know how to hew into blocks in Batavia, and they finish the points of the fort therewith. This stone is very white, far whiter than lime stone in Holland. The fort is built mostly of such stone, right out of the water to the top; a pleasure to look at. We made three such voyages for stone.

It was no bad change for me, for on the Berger Boot the kitchen was as bare as a board, as the saying is, and the ship Groningen was just come from Holland and had plenty of everything. I was ordered to go with it to Jambi again for pepper, with two chests of money; we should touch at Palembang in passing, which we did and found there a Merchant of Alkmaer, named Hooghlandt. We left a chest of money with him and set on f urther to Jambi.

[Page 79]

With these voyages in the Berger-Boot as also the Groningen I was busied some two years. It was then resolved that with this same ship I should go to China in company with seven more ships under Commander Cornelis Reyersz of Gouda, with intent, were it possible, to capture the town of Macao, or to go to the Pescadores and try all possible means to establish a trade with the Chinese, all of which was expressed more fully in the instructions given us by the Governor-General Coen.

[Page 80]

The 30th we came to anchor at the S.E. end of Polepon in twelve fathom and sandy ground. Its coast is highland.

[Page 81]

The 1st May we lay to the West side of the afore-named island in nineteen fathom anchor ground over against the most northerly sand-bay, where the fresh water is a little within the wood, in a flat hollow or dell. From the north end of the island of Banka to this above-mentioned island the course is North nineteen miles.

The same day we set sail again; set our course N.E. and N.E. by N., so as to sail above or to the east of the island of Linga.

[Page 83]

The 25th we were close to the islet with the cliffs of stone, named Pole Cecir de Terre. Here on the north of the land there is an inlet which runs into the high ground like a river. The dune coast here comes to an end, and there follows high land with deeper water, thirty, forty, and fifty fathom. The next day we sailed with our four ships to another bay called Canberine, about six miles further and found here water and wood in plenty, as also refreshment in abundance. We got some seventeen oxen and a good number of fowls; but a Speck of ours deserting to the inhabitants we could obtain no more refreshing afterwards.

The 10th we saw a small island that lay under the coast in shape like the Coxbroad by England.

[Page 84]

In the morning, being the 24th day, at break of day we shot into the town with all our broad-sides that it shook, as much shot as the pieces could bear. A short time after, the Commander Cornelis Reyersz landed with about six hundred men able to bear arms, Two sloops ran close in shore where [Page 85] the Commander landed, so that in case it went ill with our men they could retreat into them and also to protect the boats and small vessels. The Portuguese had thrown up a breast-work at the spot where our men were to land, from that they offered some resistance, but when our men pressed forward, they fled up the slope to a monastery. Being on land our men advanced valiantly on the Portuguese, who made several sallies against us, but were driven back continually with great courage. Then by mischance some half-barrels of powder got afire which placed our men in a quandary, for before any other could be brought, the Portuguese were acquainted thereof by some Japanese deserters. Our men minding to draw off, the Portuguese on that afore-mentioned report came and fell on them, and as they, through want of powder, could not sufficiently defend themselves, many were slain. The rest retired in much confusion into the boats and came on board. We reckoned to have lost 130 men in all, and had also as many injured; among them the Commander Cornelis Reyersz, who when first our men landed, was shot in the belly, but by God’s help he was cured of his hurt. The men again on board, we sailed off about three-quarters of a mile and fetched water from an island south of Macao. We took in again our chief mate who had been formerly put off.

[Page 86]

The 4th July from our top we had sight of the island of the Pescadores.

The 6th day the ship de Beer came again to us from the coast of China, we held together round the outside of the islands.

The 10th we came to anchor behind one of the islands; it rises like a table and was one of the highest islands of the Pescadores. We saw between the islands some Chinese fisher-men, but they fled before us.

The next day we weighed anchor and ran into a fine enclosed bay, in eight or nine fathom anchorage. This country is flat and stony, has no trees from which to get wood, is grown over with long grass; it has reasonably fresh water to be got from wells, but the weather being dry it is brackish. The water is found in two inlets where the ships lie; otherwise here is no refreshment

[Page 87]

The 21st we had sight of the continent of China and came before the renowned river Chinchu. This river is easily recognisable, for such as Jan Huygen van Linschoten doth relate: at the corner on the N.E. side are two hills, one of which is like the pillar of a church, and the S.W. side of the river is low, sandy ground, and a little to the inside of the S.W. corner can be seen a tower or what has the likeness thereof. Here we should have run on the S.W. side under a small round island, but as the ship de Beer could not make the road, we had to stand out to sea again, for her broken yard was not yet repaired. It now began to blow hard, so that the next day our foresail blew out of the bolt-ropes; we beat up against the wind, but were driven strongly to the north.

The 25th [Page 88] we saw many Chinese fishermen, about three, four, five to six miles out from land. The 11th we weighed anchor and ran under the island of Lanquyn, that lies in 28½ degrees north of the Æequinoctial Line, in a tolerable road on the north side of which we had discovered with the boat, to seek water and refreshment; found none or scanty victuals, but there was good water. As we lay here there came to us some Chinese in their sampan, who presented us with five baskets of white sugar for each ship. They were we surmised, so far as we could understand from them, Chinese pirates, freebooters on their own nation. The next day we fetched our water and set sail again, but prospered little.

The 18th day the aforesaid pirates had their anchorage, they brought us some victual which they knew where to find, but it was of little [Page 89] use for the whole of our ships’ crews. They many times proposed that we should go with them to the coast and so they might be in our shelter, they would bring refreshment for us, yea, boat-loads thereof, yet we thought it not advisable to do this. They hoisted Prince-flags on their little ships and under that ensign robbed their own nation.

[Page 94]

The 25th we came together before the river Chinchu. Cast anchor under an island by a town, from which the inhabitants took flight. We brought therefrom about forty beasts, among which several pigs; also a number of hens, which served well for refreshing, as many of our men lay ill and were much revived by these victuals.

[Page 96]

The next day we sailed to another island, on which stood a great tower. We found no people there; cast anchor at high water in 5½ fathom and in the early part of the night with low tide we found ourselves fast; it appeared that a powerful current goes here in and out.

[Page 98]

The 20th the ship Haerlem took some seven sampans with thirty-six Chinese in them and three junks that were loaded with salt, salted fish and other goods. The same day it was agreed that we should take over the lading brought by the Haerlem from Japan; for the ship Haerlem was weak and in such case that she dared not put off to have her bottom doubled, and on the other hand our ship was strong and good. Also we were water-tight again. We therefore cleared up our ship and began the next day to load. Then came two Chinese from the land to the ship Haerlem; [Page 99] they brought some apples, fowls and pigs on board, for which deed they gave him his junk back. We then here fetched water and made ready to sail again: put up a fish on our foremast and yard.

[Page 101]

The 19th in the morning we were about a mile outside the coast or from the point of Teysing; we had Peter Blanca S.E. of us about five miles; it lies in the height of 22 degrees 20 minutes; we sailed along the coast. On the same day we gave rations to the crew, one tankard of water a day.

[Page 102]

The 27th our Merchant Nieuwenroode sailed to land with the yawl and longboat, to see if water was to be found, but there was none. We saw some junks lying in the river and in the afternoon we attacked them with muskets; but they shot at us with small cannon and hoisted sail, so we came back having done them no hurt.

The 28th our chief mate took a small junk with dried and salted fish, and eight Chinese, who yielded themselves at once.

The 29th and 30th we made several attacks on junks and fisher-boats, but took only one fisherboat with five men. We sought for water which I did find the 31st day, very sweet and fresh and easy to come at.

The following days to the 7th February we took in water; every day it was foul and variable weather with wind contrary for continuing our voyage.

The 8th we went with the boat and yawl and twenty-seven musketeers to land to make an expedition. We came to a village from which the people were fled; marched inland a short way and found a herd of buffaloes, of which we brought seventeen to the ship with four pigs and many hens. It was every day foul weather.

[Page 103]

The 11th day one of our two small junks turned over and sank, but the mast which was fourteen palm thick and 59 ft. long, we managed to get out. Out boat went again to land to fetch straw for the buffaloes.

The 12th we made another land raid with fifty armed men. Plundered two villages, saw some buffaloes but could not catch them; took some sacks of garlic and onions, and after being some two miles inland returned on board.

The 18th we put overboard a man who had died the night before. We most days made expeditions with our small junk or yawl or boat to the fishing vessels and junks, but could gain nothing. It was mostly foul weather and cold.

[Page 104]

The 18th very intemperate weather with thunder, lightning and rain. This night died the second mate Jan Gerritsz Brouwer of Haarlem, who was made second mate about five and a half weeks before.

The 5th we saw two Chinamen stand in our wood-junk and call out to be taken on board. We sent our sampan to them; found one was the same as we had put ashore the 2nd day. They had been brought in the night to our wood-junk by other Chinese and had with them hens, eggs, a pig, lemons, apples, sugar cane and tobacco, some of everything; out of gratitude for having their liberty restored to them. Verily a great virtue, putting to shame many Christians who once they are out of the trap often think little of their promises.

[Page 105]

The 8th there came a proa to our ship with two other Chinamen, who brought us (like the former) some refreshment, as apples, eggs, some pots of arack, for which we promised to set free two men, one who was wounded, and another, on condition they should bring us more victuals. Gave them also twenty-five reales in money for which to bring us pigs and then allowed them to sail to land. In the night our junk (which we had begun to break up) foundered.

The 9th and 10th we fetched water for the junk as well as for our ship, and put seventeen men of our crew into the junk, to sail together to the Pescadores as soon as wind and weather should be favourable.

The 11th day came the last two Chinamen again from the land bringing with them five pigs, a quantity of eggs, figs, apples and other goods. The 12th it blew a great storm; we lowered our yards. A Chinese proa was driven away from us with one of our men; sent a yawl and fetched him out; but they could not row back the proa by reason of the great wind; they had bound it to the stern of the yawl, but were forced at last to let it drift and came again on board.

The 13th we let the Chinamen who brought us the refreshment row back to land with their two comrades as promised.

[Page 106]

We slaughtered that afternoon in our ship a buffalo and a pig, for the next day to hold the feast of Easter.

The 16th being Easter Day they were both set free. Then the men from the junk came all into our ship to hear the sermon and stayed to dine with us on the buffalo. The next day they came again to hear the preaching; it was every day tempestuous weather and variable winds.

[Page 107]

The 1st May, unsettled weather. In the morning we saw that our junk had got away from us, but had sight of her at last a good distance to leeward of us; she lay in distress, her sail was blown away. Resolved as the wind began to grow in force to take the men out of her. To that end I went there with the boat, took the men over; but besides our men, who were sixteen in number, we could not get more than ten Chinese, the others having hid themselves. The wind also became stronger, so that ten Chinese remained in the boat and drifted away. Came in the afternoon on board again; surmised ourselves to be about eight mile outside the easternmost islands of Macao. And as here a steady wind blows from half year to half year that is called Monsoon, so those who come too short of it either on one side or the other of the Pescadores can not well get up to it before the Monsoon changes. For this reason we were here [Page 108] beaten about for a long time, at times riding at anchor, at times sailing, before we could make the Pescadores. We suffered much distress from storm and sickness, for want of refreshing; yea, at last, of ninety men there were not fifty in health of our own crew. On our way we met with another Chinese junk, richly laden to a value of thousands, that was bound for the Manillas. We took it, it had in it as much as 250 souls. Took in most of the men save about twenty or twenty-five and put with them fifteen or sixteen of our own men; we tied the junk to our ship and towed it.

[Page 118]

The 19th the ship Engelsche Beer came from Japan to us; we related to them all our adventures and for this with other reasons the Council of the ships did assemble in the ship Beer and concluded what may be understood in this following resolution: Resolution, taken by the chiefs of the ships lying before the river of Chinchu on the 24th November, 1623: Whereas, setting forth from Japan on the 11th November it was thought meet, for the better security of our voyage to the Pescadores, for us to touch at the coast of China; therefore, God be praised, we came on the 19th before the river of Chinchu and found there the ships Groningen, Samson and Erasmus, from whom to our great sorrow we learned the distressful burning of the sloop Muyden as also the taking prisoner of the Commander Christiaen Fransz. with the other deputies who had on our part gone to treat with the Chinese for peace

[Page 122]

I was now resolved at the first opportunity to go to Holland, finding the truth of the proverb the which is proved by experience: every bird returns gladly to the place where he was nested; for whatever splendid countries, coasts and kingdoms a man may sail to and look over; whatever conditions, profit or pleasures he may enjoy, would be but poor entertainment were we not supported by the hope of once upon a time [Page 123] relating our adventures at home; for in that very hope do we call our journeyings "travels", otherwise such hopeless wanderings would be no better to a man than exile.

Here in Batavia I had speech with my fellow townsman, Willem Cornelis Schouten, he came on the ship Middelburgh to return home in company with us.

The 6th February, 1625, we three above-mentioned ships did set sail from Batavia to return home, so it were God’s will.

[Page 126]
[The hurricane continued for about six or eight glasses]
[Page 127]

This tempestuous strong wind, which is called a hurricane, continued for about six or eight glasses, then the wind began to lessen. While it blew most fiercely, the sea was smooth as a table because it could not raise itself; but when the wind lessened, the sea rose so mightily that it seemed the ship would turn turtle. The rolling at last sprang a plank under water, whereby we shipped so much. water from above, that we were greatly hindered, for the water ran into the hold so that we had seven feet of water in the ship before we knew what had happened; at which we feared the ship was about to sink. Pumped with all our pumps, but the water seemed to be rising in spite of it. At this we were overwhelmed, for it was a hopeless chance. Then the pumps became useless so we could not pump; for the bottom part of the hold was filled with pepper which stopped up the pumps. We had sixty pieces of ordnance both brass and iron that lay in the hold under the pepper which was stored on a platform halfway up the hold; by the rolling of the ship these became loose and with their ears broke through the platform, so that the pepper fell through into the hold, and as the bottom flooring of the hold was forced up by the water, the pepper was all washed into the space underneath it into which the pumps open. Yet as we hoped and trusted that the ship was still whole at the bottom, we did our best to do all we could; drew out the pumps and wound pieces of old flags round them at the ends and set those same ends down on the bottom flooring, instead of through it, each in a basket.

[Page 128]

Then fell again to pumping with all our might; and now the pumps remained clear. We saw immediately that the water lessened, at which we again took courage.

Our blown off main-mast lay clanking the whole night under the bottom and on the side of the ship so that we feared it might make our bottom leak. The men in the hold called out: ‘Cut away everything that holds it fast and let it drift!’ We did what we could, we hacked the standing rigging through to windward but on the leeside, as the ship rolled and swung so mightily, we could not get a foothold; we had to leave it so for the night, but in the day we cut off all we could see and so made ourselves free of the driftage.

The next day the weather became fair [Page 131] The 22nd we departed from the Middelburgh; we set our course for Madagascar, which was nearest to us, and had sight of land on the 30th. The 1st April we determined to unload the ship and make tents on land to store the goods, and to clear the bottom apertures. And as I went with the boat to shore I saw that the sea ran fairly high, therefore I thought it not advisable to bring our lading on land, for there would be peril that both [Page 132] sloop and boat might be broken to pieces. For this reason we resolved to clear the hold, and keep the goods in the ship, which we did. [Page 133]

[We were busied every day to repair our damage.]

[Page 134] We were busied every day to repair our damage, in the ship as well as on land. We had some irons such as are used on the rope-yards to make rope-work. Set one up on land; cut one of our heavy cables in pieces, loosened them and made from them all our running rigging. We endeavoured thus to help ourselves as best we could.

The news that we were there spread far and wide in the land; thereupon came the inhabitants from far and near, drove their beasts to us and there encamped. Put up their tents and brought us everything they had; apples, lemons, citrons and milk, which they first part-boiled before selling it to us for it would not last, but was quickly sour. We trafficked with them and bought some of their beasts. Their fishers went out to sea and brought us their fish which we bought or bartered with them.

[Page 135]

Besought us by signs to help them and they would do all they could for us. Here was also wax and honey; they sold us a portion. We understood from them that their king could speak Spanish; he lived five or six days’ journey from the cost. Sent two of our men to the king to ask if he would sell us some rice; one of them was named Abraham Stevensz, of Flushing, who spoke good Spanish, with another young man. They came to the King and were well received. Delivered their message and asked to buy some rice. But the king said they had that year been much plagued by locusts who had eaten up most of the rice; which I myself could well believe for I had seen (after walking some way inland) how the locusts rose up off the land as it were in a cloud moving towards me, and flew against my breast and body so thick that I could scarce get my breath. They had wings to fly and being on the ground they hopped after the manner of hopping fowls. The king said they could set as many as three or four hundred men to guard the rice and keep the locusts off it, yet it was of little help. Therefore they had no rice to give us. We saw that the inhabitants took the locust, pulled off the wings to roast them on the fire and did eat them. Signed us that we should do the same, but we had no stomach for it. The king came down with our two men to the ship; gave us four beasts, for the which we gave him two muskets. He then said to us also that he could spare no rice.

[Page 137]

22nd April; then we were in order again and lay with our yards across, ready to continue our voyage. We brought our water-barrels full of water and our men got as many apples and lemons as each could put in his berth.

The inhabitants of this island were mostly black; some had hair that hung by their heads, others had it curled like sheep’s wool. The women had their hair plaited in small plaits round their head, and they smeared it with oil till it shone in the sun; the men mostly did likewise. The greater number had no more than a small cloth round their loins to cover their shame and some went quite naked without shame.

[Page 140]

The 6th June the sea began to run calm and we had fair weather. Took our height; found 32 degrees and 16 minutes, by which we saw that we were above or inside the Cape of Bonesperance, for the Cape lies in 34½degrees. It then became more and more such right fair weather that we did seem to be in Heaven, who had so late been in Hell.

[Page 144]

We set our course to N.W., to the island Ascension, with a good wind and quick progress; yet we had no sight of it. We saw only, when we reckoned to be thereabouts, a great multitude of sea-fowl. The wind began to increase as much as we could bear, with which stiff wind we passed the aequinoctial Line without hindrance; while on our voyage outwards we were held six weeks ere we could pass it, mostly by calms and then again sudden squalls by which it seemed that all we had on would be blown to pieces.

The 12th September, when we were three days less than three months from St. Helena, we came in the height of 34 degrees 34 minutes north of the aequinoctial Line. We here had better weather, then drifted in a calm; set to work in the morning after breaking fast, clewed up our sails, scraped and scrubbed our ship on the outside, for it was all grown very rough and foul; we hoped thereby to make better sailing.

[Page 147]

The next day the wind was east with cloudy misty weather and calm. Two or three days later we had sight of land, which we found to be Ireland.

[Page 149]

We sailed from there with the convoys and came with reasonable speed the 16th November to Zeelandt. The Lord be praised and thanked, Who hath thus far helped me through so many perils, I having been away in all about one month less than seven years.

This is a selection from the original text


apples, food, health, lemons, milk, refreshment, salt, sick, water

Source text

Title: Memorable Description of the East Indian Voyage

Author: Willem Ysbrantsz Bontekoe

Publisher: George Routledge & Sons, Ltd

Publication date: 1929

Original compiled c. 1618-1625

Edition: 1st Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Internet Archive: Original compiled c. 1618-1625

Digital edition

Original author(s): Willem Ysbrantsz Bontekoe, Mrs. C. B. Bodde-Hodgkinson, Pieter Geyl

Original editor(s): Pieter Geyl

Language: English


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: India > non-fiction prose > travel narratives and reports

For more information about the project, contact Dr Ayesha Mukherjee at the University of Exeter.