Page 57 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
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 could be determined. His starting point was the 'common calculation' of the lasts of a cargo vessel: the product of multiplying length by width by depth, divided by two hundred (e.g. 100 χ 24 χ 11 : 200 = 132 last). This was not epoch making, but what was new was that he demonstrated by measurement in 'mathematical manner' and by practical tests that this calculation could be usefully applied to East Indiamen as well. He used the cornlast as standard measure and decided that this weighed c. 4,250 Amsterdam pounds (494 grammes) and occupied c. 125 cubic feet. Tests were done with various types of Company ships: the reality came very close to the calculations according to this formula. A ship of 132 last therefore had 16,500 cubic feet of space and could carry 561,000 pounds. The Heren Zeventien were satisfied with Decquer's work, thanked him 'most powerfully' for his document and subsequently had it used for calculations in Batavia too.2 4
The great importance of Decquer's work for future researchers is that it enables them to calculate the VOC ships' carrying capacity according to the 'common calculation'. It is by this method that the tonnage figures in the Lists have been arrived at. It ought to be borne in mind however that it is a rough calculation - however exact the figures may appear - and that the ships' dimensions quoted are not always reliable. In this respect a quotation from the English naval administrator Pepys may be a useful warning:
'My work this night with my clerks till midnight at the office was to examine my list of ships I am making for myself and their dimensions, and to see how it agrees or differs from other lists, and I do find so great a difference between them all that I am at a loss which to take, and therefore think mine to be as much depended upon as any I can make out of them all.'2 5
Lastly, the fact that every last means a volume of c. 125 cubic feet of 28.3 cms represents a rough approximation of the modern register ton of 100 cubic English feet of 30.4 cms.
The rates of 1697 again under discussion
The decision of 1697 to build three rates of East Indiamen and to supervise its subsequent observance, resulted during the eighteenth century in uniformity and standardization, as already pointed out. The slow decline in intra-Asiatic shipping and the opening of direct links with places other than Batavia all contributed to the smaller types of ship being pushed into the background.2 6 However, concentration on three rates of agreed dimensions did not mean that nothing further was to be said about shipbuilding in the eighteenth century VOC.
For commercial and technical reasons the first alterations to the 1697 decisions were introduced in 1714. The Heren Zeventien wanted larger imports of sugar from Batavia than before, and decided to have special sugar fluyts built. This was in fact the 130 ft fluyt of the 1697 agreement, but the sugar fluyt was to be employed solely for shipping this product from Batavia to the Republic. T o enable her to sail with minimal crew she was given an upper deck without superstructures. First four sugar fluyts were built (2255,
24 ARA,VOC155, res. Heren 17 of 28.9.1689; ARA,Coll. Hudde 21, letter from J. Nieuwstad of 3.3.1691 and nos. 25 and 27. Decquer's publication 'Middelen om uit te vinden de ware ladinge der scheepen na hare grootte' is kept in the University Library at Leiden, with many appendices; another copy, though with fewer appendices, can be found in A R A , Coll. Hudde. See also the document mentioned in note 14.
25 Quoted in: Fox, Great ships, 173.
26 Cf. Gaastra, De geschiedenis van de VOC, chapter IV. Ν. Α. Κ. Μ. Zijlstra and F. Μ. Klinkenberg
assisted in searching the records with regard to the VOC's eighteenth century shipbuilding.

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