Galle lighthouse, ramparts and cockerel, by Muthu.
Last modified:
14 Dec 2001

Site G, Dutch or French?

Nails from Site G.'Site G' is the site of a wooden wreck on the eastern side of the bay of Galle, characterised by a mound of ballast stones and a few scattered artefacts.

Hypothesis: site G as the Dutch wreck Geinwens

Based on archival information, a new hypothesis was developed in 1997 identifying Site G as the VOC ship Geinwens, wrecked in 1775. The clues pointing in this direction were:

Apart from these ‘physical’ clues, there were more general indications that Site G could be the remains of the Geinwens. Although the report on the wrecking of the Geinwens was not very clear about the spot in which the ship was sunk, it does say that the wrecked hull could be used in times of distress. This could mean that the ship was scuttled in a strategic place where ships could make an emergency stop before running aground or wrecking on the rocks. Site G, just before the cliffs, could be a logical place.

Counter-hypothesis: a later wreck, and possibly French

Copper alloy sheathing found on site G.However there is also a very strong indication against this hypothesis. During the 1992 and 1993 survey and excavation, remains of substantial copper alloy sheathing were found. Although Dutch shipbuilders used copper sheathing on parts of the hull (the stem and the stern) from the early 17th century onwards, it was only at the end of the 18th century that they started experimenting with copper sheathing for all of the hull which was underwater. By the 1780’s the Dutch admiralty started to sheathe whole ships with copper. They adopted the French way of copper sheathing, so a link with the name Nante on one of the found sheets is possible, and this need not conclusively prove French origin - although a pair of calipers labelled Limoges also points in that direction. Recently it has been suggested that the VOC had already started sheathing their Asia-bound ships in the 1740’s.


There are no positive indications that Site G is indeed the Geinwens. The original suspicion that the site is French has been strengthened by the geologist's report that the ballast rocks are certainly not Sri Lankan, nor Dutch, and could be French. From the archives we know that the Geinwens loaded additional ballast of local rock. In order to find the Geinwens, further archival research should be done to identify other places in the bay that are appropriate for sinking a ship as a harbour facility.

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