Galle lighthouse, ramparts and cockerel, by Muthu.
Last modified:
6 Jan 2002

The wrecking of the Barbesteijn (1735)

The return-ship Barbesteijn sailed on 18th October 1735 from Colombo to Galle. The normal procedure was for ships to anchor outside the Bay and wait for a pilot. Because the weather was too bad to enter the harbour, the Barbesteijn waited for a number of days. On the morning of 22nd October, the ship broke one of her anchors and drifted in the direction of the shore:

Reconstruction of the course of the  'Barbesteijn'.'When the rope of the small bow anchor broke [1] we were driven to land. We fired distress signals, in order to get assistance from the shore. There was a strong southerly wind, with a high sea running from the southwest. At the second glass both anchors broke and we fell with the bow to the northeast in the direction of the shore, and against all regulations (not having a pilot) we entered the bay with God's blessing. We were able to avoid the blaasbalg [2, the SE corner of the bay], we sailed through a rough sea, and the current carried us into the bay. We used the foresail and spritsail and prepared the two kedges. We dropped the anchors inside the klip van negen [3, submerged cliffs in the middle of the bay]... we still couldn’t halt the ship, we dropped another kedge, in the end we tried to stop the ship by throwing guns on ropes overboard, we also saw a boat with anchors but it couldn’t reach us, and after a little while we hit the bottom[4]. This was about eight o'clock; until nine o'clock we weren’t leaking, but due to the constant bumping we first made water and later also sand. In the evening there was water up to the first deck; that night we made water up to two feet between the decks. In the meantime they tried everything from the shore to help us, but it was useless, the vessels and the dhoni capsized in the breakers.'

The Barbesteijn may have been found during the magnetometer survey in February 1997. A target was found close to the beach in the north-east corner of the bay of Unawatuna.

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