Tusk find at Abrol­hos may be from lost ship Aagtek­erke

Midwest Times - - FRONT PAGE - Francesca Mann

An ele­phant tusk dis­cov­ered off the coast of Ger­ald­ton, be­lieved to be from an 18th-cen­tury Dutch ship, has been handed over to the Mu­seum of Ger­ald­ton.

The tusk was dis­cov­ered last week in the Abrol­hos Is­lands by a team of WA ship­wreck hunters, which in­cluded boat skip­per Gar­rett Orr, and his­to­rian and au­thor Hugh Ed­wards.

Mr Orr de­liv­ered the tusk to the mu­seum on Mon­day af­ter­noon for record­ing and con­ser­va­tion.

Al­though the tusk was found near the wreck of the Dutch ship Zeewijk, the team be­lieves the dis­cov­ery proves the fi­nal rest­ing place of the Aagtek­erke, a Dutch East In­dia Com­pany (VOC) ship which dis­ap­peared in 1726.

But WA Mu­seum chief ex­ec­u­tive Alec Coles said the tusk was not con­crete ev­i­dence.

“This is a very ex­cit­ing dis­cov­ery and cer­tainly adds weight to the body of ev­i­dence that an­other ship may have been wrecked near the site of the Zeewijk,” he said.

“The ev­i­dence, how­ever, while com­pelling, is not con­clu­sive and does not yet prove the ex­is­tence of a sec­ond wreck at the site. The mu­seum has pre­vi­ously in­ves­ti­gated, and will con­tinue to in­ves­ti­gate, the pos­si­bil­ity that an­other, as yet un­known ship­wreck may be lo­cated in the vicin­ity.”

The Aagtek­erke was built in 1724 and sailed from the Netherlands for Batavia, now Jakarta, in May 1725. It then called in at An­gola, and the Cape of Good Hope, be­fore set­ting out to sea in Jan­uary 1726.

But the ship and its rich cargo of silver coins were never seen again.

Mr Ed­wards be­lieves part of the wreck­age at the Zeewijk site is the Aagtek­erke, as records show the Zeewijk was not car­ry­ing ivory, how­ever 214 ele­phant tusks were loaded aboard the Aagtek­erke.

Mr Orr, who has been a part of the ex­pe­di­tions for eight years, said it was likely there was more wreck­age out there, but con­di­tions made them dif­fi­cult to ac­cess.

“The more ivory iden­ti­fied, the stronger the case for the Aagtek­erke is,” he said. “It’s all a mat­ter of get­ting the arte­facts, but you can’t get to it, even on a good day.”

The mu­seum will con­serve the tusk and then carry out some anal­y­sis to de­ter­mine its ori­gin.

Mr Coles said there was a pos­si­bil­ity the tusk could end up on dis­play at the Mu­seum of Ger­ald­ton, but con­ser­va­tion work could take some time.

Pic­ture: Francesca Mann

Boat skip­per Gar­rett Orr, right, hands the wrapped ele­phant tusk, dis­cov­ered off the coast of Ger­ald­ton, over to Mu­seum of Ger­ald­ton re­gional man­ager Leigh O'Brien.

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