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stepping stones of maritime history


The Columbus was a fast sailing vessel for deep sea shipping. Captain David Doodt, sailing under the Prussian flag, navigated the Columbus in 1816 from Riga to Amsterdam. Once in Amsterdam, she was sold for 35,000 guilders.

The Columbus was then used in 1817 to transport troops (22nd battalion, 217 men and 27 officers) to the Dutch East Indies.

In July 1821, Jacobus Grevelink became captain.* Subsequently, the Columbus left Texel on August 24, 1821, bound for Batavia. On March 1, 1822 she arrived at the Batavia roadstead.

From there, she left for Amsterdam in May 1822 with a corps of troops of His Majesty the King of the Netherlands, led by Lieutenant Gerlings. During this journey, on July 13, the Columbus encountered a violent storm near Cape Agulhas - the southernmost point of South Africa. Captain Grevelink describes it in a letter as follows:

On board the Columbus, I had an assorted equipment as well as a corps of troops of His Majesty the King of the Netherlands. On the 13th of July near the Agulhas bank, I was overtaken by such a violent storm that it destroyed one after the other the mainmast, the mizzenmast and the bowsprit. Our rudder shattered and the pump was swept away. Our ship beyond help, split half open, in the middle of a raging sea, tossed here and there and, being the plaything of the waves, we all expected nothing but death... Then a brig suddenly appeared on the horizon and bore down on us. We began to hope that we would receive help, and we were soon certain of this when we recognized the French flag, always accompanied by humanity as well as by bravery.

The French ship Julia, commanded by Captain Desse, stayed near the unfortunate Columbus for 5 days. Desse was eventually able to take the 93 passengers of the Columbus on board and save them from certain death. However, the Columbus was lost.

The survivors were landed at St. Denis on Bourbon Island (now La Réunion). The captain, Jacob Grevelink, made his way back to Amsterdam in March 1823.

Captain Desse received the order of the Netherlands Lion, for displaying humanity and courage during his rescue mission, from King William I.¹


*Grevelink had been a lieutenant in the Batavian navy. In 1806 he was married to the celebrated actress Geertruida Hilverdink. He was unemployed for a long time before 1817, when he found work (again) as captain.


Type: the Columbus was a fast sailing pink ship but was classed as a frigate when sold in 1816.

Built: 1811 in Königsberg, Prussia (Kaliningrad)

Owner 1: Georg Philip Abegg, Königsberg, Prussia (1811-1816)

List of owners as dated on the 7th of July, 1821:
Firm De Vries & Co., Amsterdam, 3/8 share (accountant)
Company A.L. van Harpen & Zoon, Amsterdam, 4/8 share
Firm Insinger & Co., Amsterdam, 1/8 share

MasterJacobus Grevelink
Length138.1 feet (42.1 m)
Width36.4 feet (11.1 m)
Draft15.7 feet (4.8 m)
Tonnage680 ton (340 last)


  • id 12312.
  • Lesa la Grange, Martijn Manders, Briege Williams, John Gribble and Leon Derksen (2024).
    Dutch Shipwrecks in South African Waters: A Brief History of Sites, Stores and Archives [Unpublished].

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