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stepping stones of maritime history


The Kalmar Key (Kalmar Nyckel) was originally a Swedish warship. With the Kalmar Nyckel, the first Swedish migrants arrived in North America in 1638 in Delaware. She had had a respectable career when she was taken out of service in 1651. She was sold to Cornelis Roelofsen, a Dutch merchant living in Stockholm.

Beelt, A.

Rijksmuseum SK-A-1193

Dutch herringfleet at sea (Beelt ca. 1670)

On April 11, 1652 the ship was in Amsterdam. She was there modified armed with 22 guns and accommodation for 90 men. Subsequently she was leased to the Admiralty of Rotterdam for patrol and convoy duty.* 26 April Dirck Vijgh was appointed captain. The frigate was ready for service in Rotterdam on 11 May.

Kalmar Sleutel

Copeland Maritime Center Wilmington

Impression of the Battle Buchan Ness (painting: Patrick O'Brien 2023)

First Dutch-English war
Tensions between England and the Republic had risen and open fighting broke out on 22 and 29 May 1652. There was an enormous need for convoys that could protect the trading and fishing fleets.

Herring fleet
The herring fleet (600 herring fishers was in the fishing grounds between Scotland and the Shetland Islands.** The Kalmar Key was ordered to find and protect the fleet along with 14 other hastily equipped warships. Not knowing that Admiral Blake was heading north with a fleet of 65 ships to surprise the Dutch herring fleet. June 14, the Kalmar left Den Briel.

Battle of Buchan Ness
The vanguard of 25 modern ships led by William Penn sighted the Dutch herring fleet and 15 escort ships on 22 July. The 15 convoys fired into the attack and maneuvered between the herring ships and the British. The light and poorly armed Dutch were no match for Penn. Two captains even evaded the battle. Captain Vijgh on the Kalmar was at the center of the battle. His ship was shot to pieces and the crew had to surrender. The ship was subsequently sunk.

12 convoys and about 40 fishermen were captured by the English. 3 ships were so badly damaged that they were sunk. Vijgh was released in September and returned to the Republic. He was interrogated and acquitted. He immediately received a new commission on the ship De Overijssel.

Cornelis Roelofs, who had leased the ship to the Admiralty, was eventually paid 15,700 in compensation for the loss of the Kalmar Key.

The Battle of Buchan Ness was the first official engagement of the First Anglo-Dutch War, a conflict concerned with fishing rights, global trading empires and control of the seas around the British Isles.


Built: probably Dutch Republik. In 1629 bought by the Swedish navy

Armament: 20 canons. 4 x.8 ponders 6.x 6 ponders, 4 x 4 ponders, 2 x.3 ponders (11-4-1652)
22 canons (14-6- 1652)

MasterVijgh, Dirck
People on board90
Length103 feet (31.4 m)
Width25 feet (7.6 m)
Draft11 feet (3.4 m)


Exhibition Battle of Buchan Ness Kalmar Nyckel Copeland Maritime Center Wilmington, Delaware USA. (v.a. april 2023

The present-day replica of the Kalmar Nyckel was launched in 1997 Wilmington, Delaware


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