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The Walvis was a Dutch return ship with a capacity of around 1000 tons. The ship was built in 1638 for the VOC chamber of Amsterdam and was lost in 1663 near the coast of Selayar.

The Foundering

The ship was on her way to Batavia from Java when she hit a reef on the 7th of January 1663. The reef was known on some maps, but not all. This led to confusion and eventually to her foundering. Out of the 162 crew members, 60 reportedly immediately took to the boat that was towed behind the vessel. It only took about half an hour until it completely fell apart.

When the survivors reached land they were received peacefully by Selayar’s overlord despite a recent conflict between the VOC and Makassar. At first, the local population saw an advantage in taking care of the survivors so that the Dutch could later pay dearly for the provisions that were given to the survivors. However, the amount of survivors (140) was too much for the locals to handle. When the Dutch residents in Makassar got wind of the disaster they sent a rescue party after the survivors. The party arrived in early February. About 29 survivors and some officers joined the first rescue party, while 16 survivors went to Makassar by a local craft. The second rescue party picked the remaining 90 survivors up in March 1663.

A dinghy was sent to retrieve the ship’s cargo but came back empty handed. It was rumored that much of the goods and crew’s belongings were moved to the village of Boneo by followers of Karaeng Tallo and Karaeng Sumanna (Makassar nobles). Sixteen cannons, three anchors, cordage and other goods were seized by the locals. Karaeng Sumanna refused to hand over the goods since ‘he had fished them out of the sea and thus the goods are his’. But after long negotiations he handed half of the cannons back to the Dutch.

The effects of the Walvis incident continued when another Dutch ship (the Leeuwin) stranded on Doangdoangan island in 1664 and gave rise to diplomatic quarrels between Makassar and the VOC. On the eve of ultimate confrontation (1666) between the VOC and Makassar, the return of the Walvis’ remaining cannons was one of the foremost points in the list of the VOC’s final demands.


Sunken Treasures


World War II