THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A Dutch ship that had sunk off Anchuthengu (Anjengo) in Thiruvananthapuram in January 1752 has been identified as the Wimmenum, built two years previously at the Dutch East India Company Wharf in Amsterdam.
‘’The sail ship is said to have caught fire and exploded after being attacked by Angrians of Malabar coast,’’ said Robert Panipilla, a researcher of Friends of Marine Life, a local forum, who discovered the ship with the help of fishermen and two divers in January this year. ‘’Angrians is apparently a German word referring to pirates,’’ he said.
The wreck, now rusted and home to a variety of underwater life, stands 8 metres tall and in an upright position, shows underwater footage obtained by Panipilla.
According to information obtained by him from the Dutch archives, the 1150 tonne-Wimmenum was 42.25 m long, made of steel and had a crew of 356. The master of the ship was Capt Jean Louis Phillipi and one of the passengers had been a female slave. ‘’Wimmenum is the name of a place in Holland,’’ Panipilla said.
He has dedicated a full chapter in his new book Kadalarivukalum Neranubhavangalum on the discovery. “The ship has been located 9.7 km north-west of Anchuthengu at a depth of 43 m, equivalent to the height of a 15-storey building. Though the fishermen have known about it for generations, neither the Archaeology Department nor Harbour Engineering Department had a clue,’’ he said.
Although the ship belonged to the Dutch East India Company, it had nothing to do with the Battle of Colachel of 1741 between Travancore and the Dutch forces led by Flemish captain Eustachius De Lannoy. The real credit of the discovery goes to the fishermen, said Panipilla. “The two divers, Sreenivasu and Bheema, and I are only links in a chain. The main links are the fishermen who showed us the precise location,’’ he said.
With this discovery, another mystery also stands solved — the origins of the Dutch bell at the Janardana Swamy Temple in Varkala. The brass bell is from the Wimmenum and the inscriptions on it have now been identified as that of Michael Everhardt who had been a soldier aboard the ship, and Pieter van Belson, who crafted the bell.
It was always believed that a Dutch sailor had presented the bell to the temple as thanksgiving after he was saved.