Moore River, Guilderton

Confidentiality Assured

We understand that you may have reservations in making contact with us. However, given the laws governing historical maritime artefacts, we are also taking a risk communicating with you. 

Artefacts are precious and over time many items have been lost, melted down or simply thrown into the trash. We seek to record both digital images of artefacts and to document stories of discovery, before such precious information is lost forever.  

The GDRG is a private research group.  We are not affiliated with any Government Department or past 'treasure hunters.'  We are a group of passionate individuals dedicated to uncovering the ultimate fate of the 68 survivors marooned on the coast of Western Australia in 1656.

I appeal to you, if you have an artefact, have a story to tell, or know someone that does, please contact me for a confidential discussion.

Gilt Dragon History

Built in 1653 by the Amsterdam Chamber of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), the Vergulde Draeck (Gilt Dragon) was a 42-metre, 260-tonne, 'Jacht'. In 1656, on only its second voyage, the Gilt Dragon set sail for the VOC's spice-trading headquarters at Batavia (Jakarta). However due to the difficulties of 17th century navigation, the Gilt Dragon accidentally sailed too far east and found itself off the coast of a massive and largely unknown land.The Batavia

On the night of the 28th of April 1656, the Gilt Dragon struck a submerged coral reef midway between what are now the coastal towns of Seabird and Ledge Point, Western Australia.

On board were 193 crew, eight boxes of silver coins worth 78,600 guilders and trade goods to the value of 106,400 guilders. What happened next makes for fascinating reading...

It is believed that the wreck began to break up almost immediately.

Of the 193 crew, 118 are believed to have perished in the wreck.

Of the survivors, 75 people, including the ships Captain, Captain Pieter Albertszoon and very capable Under Steersman (name unknown), made it to shore. They had with them two small boats, one damaged, along with a small amount of provisions and stores.Gilt Dragon Coins

The Under Steersman and six of the fittest crew members were immediately dispatched to Batavia in the one seaworthy boat. It was a long and difficult voyage for the shipwrecked survivors. After a journey of some 1400 nautical miles, lasting 41 days, with little water, little food and suffering from exposure, the Under Steersman arrived at Batavia and the search for the survivors and cargo began.

Almost immediately the ships the Goede Hope and the Witte Valk were provisioned and dispatched. Large storms off the coast meant that both ships were unsuccessful and quickly returned to Batavia without finding any trace of the survivors.

In 1657, the Vink, sailing from the Cape to Batavia, was directed search for the survivors on its passage. Again, due to bad weather, no sign of the survivors were found.

After so many weather influenced failures, a decision was made to search for survivors during the calmer summer months. On New Years Day in 1658, some two years after the Gilt Dragon was wrecked, two ships, the Waeckende Boei and the Emmeloort were provisioned and another expedition was launched to find survivors and cargo. This time, the indefatigable Under Steersman Abraham Leeman accompanied them!Beardman Jug

On 24 February 1658, the Emmeloort sighted land off what is now the Bunbury Coast and continued to sail north. On March 8 1658, shore fires were sighted and a search party was dispatched, however the fires hard been extinguished by the time they made shore. The next day another and they met up with a group of aborigines who had been responsible for the fires. The party also reported seeing crops of grain growing and land under cultivation. However, no traces of survivors and wreckage of ships were found.

The Waeckende Boei was a little more successful. On 23 February 1658, after sighting land near present-day Perth, they saw fires and Abraham, Leeman and a small shore party was sent to investigate. Two days later, after returning to the ship, they reported that the beach was littered with wreckage from the Gilt Dragon. There were also signs that Dutch survivors had been in the vicinity, as they found a circle of planks with their ends planted in the sand. However, no survivors or graves were found.

Further shore searches were undertaken, and on one such occassion Abraham Leeman and his shore party became separated from the Waeckende Boei. Heavy seas prevented the group from returning to the Waeckende Boei, and after four days of bad weather, Leeman and the shore party were assumed dead. The Waeckende Boei returned to Batavia.  Upon finding themselves marooned on a strange, lonely and rugged coast, Leeman and his fellow sailors had no choice but to also voyage for Batavia as best as they were able.  Leeman ordered their small boat to be reinforced and covered using bush timber and seal skin. After a long and dangerous sea journey, during which they covered approximately 1400 nautical miles, suffering from thirst and hunger, and after losing men to both death and desertion, Leeman and just three sailors arrived at the Dutch East India Company (VOC) settlement of Japara. Leeman survived his epic journey north and cemented his place into Gilt Dagon history. 

Question Mark

Despite significant expense to the VOC, and the extraordinary efforts of remarkable men like Abraham Leeman, and the additional loss of life endured by various rescue parties, not a single Gilt Dragon survivor, body, gravesite or residence was ever found. What happened to them?