Page 94 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
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 Ships from Ceylon and Bengal sailed across the Indian Ocean before the northeast monsoon on firstly a southerly course, up to 10° south approximately. After that, on a southsouthwesterly and southwesterly course and aided by the trade wind, a latitude of 30 to 32°was reached. Meanwhilethey hadentered the route ofthe Bataviafleet.The African coast should be sighted near Natal, after which Cape Agulhas was rounded. In the instructions supplied to the masters of the VENENBURG and the KALF (5536 and 5537) on the first direct voyage from Ceylon in 1665, this pattern was already outlined. At that time uncertainty about the position of some groups of islands, and sands, still played a role.9
During the eighteenth century descriptions of courses in the instructions became more and more elaborate, often newly drawn up for each consignment. But just as for the outward voyage a simplification of the instructions became noticeable, as in the case of the wagenspoor for instance: this happened in 1783 for the return journey as well. Then a short, clear sailing order was issued for sailing at all times from Sunda Strait via the Cape to the Netherlands.10
One potential danger awaited the return fleet on its way to the Cape. It was that of cyclones which frequently raged in the area round Mauritius, from January to March. The sailing order describes how a ship could try and weather these as best it could. The cyclone danger was a very real one. Scores of ships returning from Asia have been lost on the run to the Cape, most of them without any details of their fate becoming known. Losses became close to dramatic during the years 1720-1740. In 1722 six ships disappeared (6508,6510, 6512", 6513, 6521 and 6522) between Mauritius and the Cape, in 1723 three (6644, 6649 and 6652), in 1734 one (6901), in 1739 three (7054, 7063 and 7066) and in the following year again as many as six (7085-7089 and 7102). These losses played an important part in the revision of the instructions in 1742. The division into two contingents was aimed in part at avoiding this area as much as possible during the dangerous months of January and February. Masters were given detailed instructions on how to head the ship into the wind whenever a storm threatened. This measure could not prevent further disasters, but their number was never as high again.12
There was no need for a port of call on this crossing of two to three months. Therefore the Cocos Islands were only explored superficially in 1667 (5555-5557) and Mauritius played practically no role in shipping links between Asia and the Republic. Madagascar too had to be avoided. Only in case of severe damage to the ship or of too late arrival at the African coast could these two islands be used as ports of refuge, as for instance by the BERKHOUT and HAARLEM (5292, 5293) in 1641.
b. Duration of voyage to the Cape
Crossing the Indian Ocean was a straightforward route, as soon as the trade windwas reached it was practically one straight line to the Cape. Instructions about the course had only marginal significance. The vast majority of returning ships made for the Cape as first
9 ARA,VOC1251, f. 1301-1304 (29.11.1665) and VOC 735, f. 43 and 47, res. G.G.en Raden of 23.1.1719.
10 Compare the instructions mentioned in note 2 with those in A R A , V O C 5036.
11 The data listed under this voyage number are incorrect. The date of departure is probably
30.11.1721, the date for call at the Cape should be omitted (Coolhaas, Generale Missiven VII,
580, 607 and 631).
12 Van Dam, Beschryvinge, vol. 68,42-43 and vol. 87,588. Cf. Van der Chijs (ed.), Nederlandsch-In-
disch Plakaatboek VI, 748. Heeres, 'De 'Consideration", 569-570.

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