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stepping stones of maritime history


Banda was a merchant vessel that sailed for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) during the early seventeenth century. Banda was part of a fleet of three other ships returning to Patria from Bantam. The three other ships in the fleet were Delft, Gelderlandand Geunieerde Provincien, and the commander of the fleet was Dutch Admiral Pieter Both. On the night of March 5, 1615, the fleet was hit by a hurricane, and Bandastruck a reef near Mauritius, while she was seeking shelter in the bay of a river. Thirty deaths were reported, among them the fleet commander Pieter Both. Two other ships of the fleet were lost, and only Delft'made it back to the Netherlands. This was an important loss for the VOC, and led to the naming of the highest peak of the island after Pieter Both, the Pieter Bothsberg.

Pieter Both's peak on Mauritius

Pieter Both, gouvernor general of India and commander of the fleet which included Banda

Archaeological description

The wreck of Banda was discovered in 1979 by a French team. After the discovery, a contract regarding of her salvage was made between the Dutch government and R. Cowan, who later wrote an article about the ship. Some of the artifacts retrieved from the wreck site included gold, coins, porcelain, and cannons. The recovered artifacts were later sold at auction, and some are displayed in the National Museum of Mauritius. Among the artifacts was a marine astrolabe, an instrument to measure longitude, and it was a rare Portuguese item bearing the year 1568, making it the third oldest known Portuguese marine astrolabe.

The Dutch are not recognized as the owners of the wreck, which is currently controlled and maintained by the Mauritian ministry of culture. The site is protected by law, but is threatened by natural erosion, coral overgrowth, diving, and tourism.

Artifacts from the Banda

Marine astrolabe

The mariner's astrolabe, also called the seaastrolabe, was an inclinometer used to determine the latitude of a ship at sea by measuring the sun's noon altitude (declination) or the meridian altitude of a star of known declination. Not an astrolabe proper, the mariner's astrolabe was rather a graduated circle with an alidade used to measure vertical angles. They were designed to allow for their use on boats in rough water and/or in heavy winds, which astrolabes are ill equipped to handle. In the sixteenth century, the instrument was also called a ring.

The earliest known description of how to make and use a sea astrolabe comes from Martín Cortés de Albacars Arte de Navegar published in 1555.


The marine astrolabe from Banda (Mauritius museum).


Type: East Indiaman (Spiegelretourschip)
Built: Yard Amsterdam, 1606
Owner: DEIC chamber Amsterdam
Length: 42 m. (keel)
Crew: 100

Detail of Het uitzeilen van een aantal Oost-Indiëvaarders uit het Marsdiep; depicted is the Mauritius from C. Vroom.

MasterThijsz., Roelof
People on board100
Tonnage800 ton (400 last)



Mauritius on 17th century Dutch map.


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