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The Wreck and its Surroundings
The wreck is located in the outer archipelago by the open sea, exposed to winds. The wreck lies in a small deep surrounded by shallows, where the sea bottom consists of a thick layer of clay and gyttja clay covered with sand. The depth of the sea is 41 meters on the spot, which means that the water temperature at the bottom is low all the time. There are strong currents near the Baltic proper, and it is likely that changes in the Baltic hydrography can be seen there without delay.
The owner of the water destrict, Metsähallitus and the state authority responsible for the underwater cultural heritage, The National Board of Antiquities, has agreed on borderlines of the prohibited area around the wreck of Vrouw Maria in May 2000. The Prohibited area is a circle, with diameter of 1500 meters. Inside the circle anchorage and diving are strictly prohibited unless they are involved in rescuing a ship in distress or research activity guided by the National Board of Antiquities in Finland. The prohibited area is monitored by the Finnish coastguard.
The hull of the Vrouw Maria appears as exceptionally well preserved with about 90 % of it preserved and the lower sections of the two masts remaining in place. It can be seen that she was a blunt-bowed wooden carvel-built ship, presumably built mainly of oak. She was a relatively small ship of modest outlook built for practical purposes, not as a decorative showpiece as for instance the well known Swedish warship the Vasa. Still, there are some deck fixtures adorned with vine patterns and other decorations.
The length of the Vrouw Maria is 26 meters and beam 7 meters. Archival sources and observations suggest that she was a snow-rigged ship. A snow-sail was reportedly salvaged from the sinking ship and the remaining gaff is still visible at the wreck. However, it is possible that this is not the initial rigging, as the ship seems to have undergone reparations or modifications at some point before the final journey. As of yet, it has not been possible to study the inside of the hull in sufficient detail to define the hull type. It is therefore not yet possible to ascertain whether the combination of rigging and hull is typical or rare for the period.
The stern of the vessel was damaged and the rudder lost in the initial foundering and subsequent salvage operation. Most of the components of the stern thus lie on the sea-bottom behind the wreck. Also on the sea-floor, on starboard side of the wreck, are the upper parts of the masts and one of the anchors, whose other arm is firmly buried in the ground. This indicates that the wreck lies in the original foundering place. The other of the ship's anchors is still hanging in its place on the port side of the railing.
The deck-planks are largely in place, although some of them have collapsed inside the hull. The windlass is undamaged and there is still a lever attached to the windlass stock. Both the pumps are still upright, and one of them still has the piston rod in its place. There are lots of different loose objects on the deck, mostly parts of rigging and remains of the collapsed deck-cabin. Two uncovered hatches on the deck lead inside the hull. The smaller hatch nearer the bow reveals views to the kitchen of the ship and crew's facilities. The large one in the middle of the ship opens straight to the main hold, where the cargo - chests, barrels and loose individual artifacts such as zinc ingots and clay pipes - can be seen.
The Vrouw Maria was a merchant vessel designed to sail many days without a break. It was important to have enough space for the cargo but room for the crew was of course needed too. The interior of the wreck consists of the crew's quarters in the bow, the holds in the middle and a cabin in the stern. A stovepipe made of brick in front of the anchor stock reveals the location of the ship's galley.
The unharmed framework of the wreck gives us a unique opportunity to study the characteristics of a typical Dutch merchant ship. The wreck as a whole gives us information on the loading and transportation of the cargo as well as the ship's sailing qualities. The Vrouw Maria is a good example of Dutch shipbuilding, one of the cornerstones of their industry.
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Last updated 30.10.2015
© National Board of Antiquities