The Journal


Hendrick Hamel

This is the journal, which describes the fate of the officers and crew of the VOC-jaght the Sperwer in the period from August 16th, when the jaght shipwrecked off the coast of the island Quelpaert, which is subject to the king of Coree, and lies south of the coast of this country, till September 1666, when eight of the survivors arrived in Nangasackij in Iapan, with also a description of the nation and the country of Coree.

The shipwreck

After we were sent, by order of the Governor-general and the Counsel of the Indies, we went with the jaght the Sperwer and hoisted sail at June 18th, 1653 from Batavia, with destination Taijoan (Tainan). One of the passengers aboard was Mr. Cornelis Caesar who would relieve Mr. Nicolaes Verburgh as governor of Taijoan,. Formosa (Taiwan) .After a prosperous journey the jaght arrived on July 16th in the roadstead of Taiwan, where Mr. Caesar disembarked and the cargo was unloaded. At July 30th, the jaght left by order from the governor and the Council from Taijoan to Iapan, to continue our journey in the name of God. To avoid confusion between the modern word "yacht", which is derived from the word the "jaght", we continue to use the word "jaght."

On the last day of July, the weather was beautiful, but in the evening there was a storm coming up from the coast of Formosa, which increased in the course of the night. On the first of August we were at dawn break in the neighborhood of a small island. We tried our best to drop our anchor behind this island to find a little bit of shelter. Eventually we succeeded with a lot of danger to do so. But we could only pay out the anchor rope a little, because behind us was a big reef, on which the surf ranted and raved heavily. The skipper discovered this island purely by chance. Luckily he was looking out of the window from the back of the ship or we would have stranded on the island and would have lost the ship. Because it was very dark we saw later that we were scarcely musket shot away from it.

When it brightened up, we saw that we were close to the coast of China. We could see troops of fully armed Chinese parade on the beach, they were hoping our ship would strand. With the help of the Almighty this was not to happen. On that day the storm didn't decrease but increased and we stayed anchored that day as well as the following night. At August 2nd the weather was very calm. The Chinese still showed up in big numbers. It appeared as they were waiting for us like hungry wolves.

We also had quite some problems with our anchor and the ropes, so we decided, in order to prevent more problems to raise the anchor and set sail. In that way we wouldn't see them anymore and we could get away from the coast. That day and the following one we had very little wind. At the third of August we discovered that the current [of the sea] drifted us back for another 20 miles (the German geographical mile, which is 7420 meter) and we saw the coast of Formosa again. We set course between both [China and Formosa]. From the fourth till the eleventh we had a lot of quiet and calm weather and we drifted between the coast of China and Formosa. At August 11th we were faced again with a fierce wind coming from the southeast, so we set course in the direction east-northeast-east. From the twelfth till the fourteenth the weather became worse and worse with a lot of wind and rain so we could sometimes hoist the sails but also sometimes we couldn't. The sea became so turbulent and since we couldn't take our bearings, we were forced to drift around without sail to prevent that we wouldn't shipwreck on one or the other coast.

On the fifteenth the wind was so fierce that we couldn't speak with each other above the roaring of the sea. We couldn't hoist more than a handful of sail and the ship started to leak more and more. We were busy pumping to keep us dry. Because the sea was so turbulent, at times we got high seas rolling over and we though that we would sink.

At dusk a high wave almost swept the galleon and the transom away. This made also the bowsprit loose, so we were in dangerous loosing it from the bow. With all our strength we tried to tighten it a bit, but all our efforts were in vain, because of the heavy swaying of the ship and the high waves rolling over us. We saw no other solution to avoid the high seas and thought it advisable to hoist the jib a little. In this way we thought to save our skin, the ship and the goods of the company as much as possible and also to be saved a bit from the high waves. We thought that this, besides the help of God, would be the best. Suddenly a huge wave came rolling over from the behind, in such a way that the mates who were hoisting the jib, almost washed from the yard and the ship was filled with water.

The galleon was the light, usually decorated extension of the bow, and served as a support of the bowsprit; it ran from both sides of the front-part and stuck out, higher then the sprit with a peak or a figure head. The flat part of the back-end of the ship was often called a Spiegel (mirror) [in English: the transom]. This was often decorated with the heraldic arm of the city to which the ship belonged or an image in relief, which represented the name of the ship

Here upon the skipper shouted: "Men, keep God in mind." The waves hit us twice in such a way that we thought that we would die for sure. We couldn't stop it any longer.sperwerInDistress.jpg (21956 bytes)

It had just stricken two glasses of the middle watch, when the lookout shouted: "land ashore". We were just one musket shot away from it. But because of the darkness and the heavy rain we didn't notice it earlier. We dropped anchors immediately because the rudder had turned around. But because of the waves, the depth of the sea and the fierce wind, the anchors didn't catch. In a short while we hit the coast with three jolts so that the ship was completely smashed to smithereens.

Of the ones who were below decks in their bunks, several had no chance to come up to save their skin, the last thing they could do. Some of the ones on deck jumped overboard, others were swept hither and thither by the waves. When we reached the coast we were with fifteen men, most of us naked [could also be translated as: almost naked] and heavily wounded. Initially we though that no more were able to salvage their lives but sitting on the rocks we still heard the moaning of the people still in the wreckage, but we couldn't find anyone in the dark, nor help them.

Stay on the island of Quelpaert

On the 16th at the crack of dawn, the ones who could still move reasonably, walked along the beach and shouted to see if more had come ashore. Here and there a few of them appeared. It seemed that there were only 36 men left, of which most of them, as said before, were considerably wounded. We looked in the wreck. We found a man there, who was jammed between two big beams. We freed him immediately. After three hours he died since his body was very seriously flattened out.

The manuscript speaks about leggers which also in English, on ships, means: big barrels, in Dutch however also beams. It seems unlikely  that during a shipwreck, someone gets caught between two, round objects, which were in general in the hold, as opposed to leggers, beams which were placed over the keel, hence the translation as beams (Nelson was brought back to England, after he died, in a legger of rum)

We looked at each other sadly. Seeing that in less than 15 minutes a beautiful ship smashed to smithereens and that we were reduced from 64 souls to 36 in less than 15 minutes. We searched immediately to see if any corpses had been washed ashore. We found skipper Reijnier Egberse from Amsterdam at around 10 or 12 fathoms (A fathom is 1,698 meters, so about 18 meters) from the waterline, with his one arm under his head. We buried him immediately, as well as the seven sailors we found dead hither and thither. We also looked for food, which possibly had washed ashore.

Since the last two or three days we had only eaten little, because the cook couldn't cook, as a result of the bad weather. We only found a bag with flour, a barrel which was filled with meat and also a barrel with some bacon, further a small casket with sweet Spanish wine. The last thing coming in useful for the wounded.

What we needed most, was fire. Because we saw no living soul, we thought we were on a deserted island. At around noon, when the rain and wind calmed down, we brought so many things ashore, that we made a tent from some pieces of sail. At the 17th being together in misery, we looked around us to see if there were no people who could help us, hoping they were Japanders. In this way we could get back in our country, There was no other solution, since the boat was splintered and beyond repair. It was before noon, when we saw in the distance a human being at around a canon shot's distance away [500 mtr] from our tent. We beckoned him, but as soon as he saw us, he took to his heels.

Shortly after noon another three people came at a musket shot's distance from our tent, but they didn't want to understand what we signaled and did. At the end one of us was so brave to walk to them to present him his gun en eventually received fire which we needed so dearly. They were dressed like Chinese, but had hats made of horsehair. We were very afraid about that, because we thought we had ended up in a nest of pirates or amongst banned Chinese.

At dusk about 100 armed people arrived at the tent. They counted us and kept watch during the night around the tent. In the morning of the 18th, they were putting up a big tent, at noon 1000 or 2000 men appeared, partly horsemen, partly foot-soldiers. They made up their camp around our our and once they were lined up they took hold of the bookkeeper, the head coxswain, the petty officer and the cabin boy and they were brought to the chief at a musket shot's distance. They each got an iron chain around their neck, which had a bell attached to it, like we do in Holland with the sheep. They were forced to crawl on hands and knees onto the commander, where they were pushed with their faces against the ground. With that the warriors shouted so deafening, that the shivers ran us on our body. Our companions, who remained in or near the tent, when they heard and saw this, said to each other: "Our officers will be killed first we will follow suit."

After a we had lain in this way for a while, they made our mates clear that they were allowed to sit on their knees. The commander asked us some questions, but they couldn't understand him. Our people pointed and motioned to them that we wanted to go to Nangasakij in Iapan. But it was all in vain, because they didn't understand each other. They didn't know the word 'Iapan' since they call the country Ieenare or IiIpon. The lieutenant-colonel had pored them a cup of arrack (probably Hamel means soju, since arrack is an Indonesian drink) and had them send back to the tent. Immediately they came and looked in the tent to see if we had some food and they found nothing more than the two, previously mentioned half full barrels with meat and bacon, which they showed immediately to the lieutenant-colonel.

After about an hour they brought us small portions in water boiled rice. They thought that we were starved, so that bigger portions might do us harm.

After noon a number of men approached us with ropes, which frightened us tremendously, because we thought they would tie is and kill us. But with a lot of noise they went to the wreck to bring the things, which were still alright, on the land. At night they gave us a little bit of rice to eat. At noon our coxswain had taken the latitude and found that we were at Quelpaert's island, at 33 degrees and 32 minutes latitude.

On the 19th, they were still busy to bring things on the land and dry it. Wood in which there was any iron, was burned. Our officers went to the lieutenant-colonel and an admiral of the island who had come there as well. They offered both a binocular and also brought them also a jar of wine and a silver plate from the Company which we had found between the rocks. It seemed they liked the wine, because they drank that much that they became very cheerful and send our people back to the tent after they had shown and proved all friendship. They also gave the plate back.

On the 20th, they set the ship on fire and the rest of the wood, to get the ironwork out of it. While it burned the two canons, which were loaded with powder, went off. Both the officers and the soldiers fled away, but they came back soon. With gestures they asked us of more would go off but we made them clear that such wouldn't happen. They continued immediately to work and brought us some food twice a day.

On the 21st, the commander had some of us come and made us clear to bring him the goods we still had in our tent so they could be sealed. When did this and it was sealed in our presence. While our people were still sitting there, some thieves, who had stolen during the salvage of the wreck, some furs, iron and the like, which were tied on their back, were taken before him. They were punished in our presence as indication that they didn't want to separate from the goods. They hit them under the balls of their feet with sticks of about a fathom's length and as thick as an average boy's arm. They did that so hard that with some of them their toes fell off their feet. Each received 30 to 40 blows.

That afternoon they motioned us that we were to leave. Those, who were still able to ride, received a horse and those ,who could not ride because of the injuries, were transported in hammocks. After the noon we left, well guarded by horsemen and foot-soldiers. At night we stayed at a little place called Tadjang (TaejOng). After we had eaten something, they brought us to a house to sleep but it looked more like a stable for horses then like an inn or a place to sleep. We had traveled for around four miles. At the morning of the 22nd time at the break of dawn, we mounted our horses again and we used a meal on our way at a small fortress, near which two junks were moored (at Aewôl, the old harbor is still there). In the afternoon we reached the city Moggan (Cheju city), where the residence of the governor of the island was. They call the governor Mocxo (probably Hamel mixed up the name for the governor and the city name). Having arrived there, we were brought on a field straight in front a city hall or government building and we got to drink a mug of rice water. We thought that this would be our last drink and that we would die a certain death. It was terrible to see, like they stood there with around 3000 armed men with their guns. They were dressed in the way of the Chineesen or Iapanders. We had never seen or heard something like this.

Immediately the bookkeeper and the three previously mentioned persons were taken in the previously mentioned manner in front of the governor and were thrown down. After they had lain there for a while, did he shout and motioned that they had to come on a big platform in the city hall. There he was, like a king, and seated along his side, he motioned and asked where we came from and whereto we wanted to go. We repeated and motioned as well as we could, that we wanted to go to Nangasackij in Iapan. Hereupon he nodded the head and it appeared that he could understand something of it. In the same way the rest of our people were brought to his excellency, in groups of four and questioned in the same way. We did our best to indicate what our answers were. Like before, we couldn't understand each other.

He had us bring to the house where an uncle of the king had lived his life long as an exile and where he had died as well. The reason why he was banished was that he had tried to dethrone the king and banish him from the country. He made our house strictly guarded with a big force and gave us as provisions 3/4 catty of rice and daily just as much wheat flour. They gave us however few side dishes, and we couldn't eat those well, so we had to eat our meal with salt and a little bit of water instead of side dishes.

In modern English and Dutch, side dishes means all kinds of extras, Hamel meant meat or fish, so actually the main-dish. A catty is around 625 gram.

As it seemed later, the governor was a good and wise man. He was about 70 years old and came from the kings city and at the court they held him in high esteem. He motioned us that he would write a letter to the king to await orders what he should do with us. Since the answer of the King could not be expected soon, because the letter had to for twelve to thirteen miles by sea and another 70 by land, we asked the governor to give us every now and then some meat or some other side dishes Because from rice with water and salt, we couldn't stay alive. We also asked permission to stroll around a little bit and to wash our bodies and clothes, which we didn't have very much anymore and that we were allowed to go out at turns of six men, which was granted immediately.

He had us come often, to ask us, both in their as in our language, questions therefore we could gradually communicate with each other, though in a crooked and broken way. He sometimes had parties or other entertainment organized, so that we wouldn't be too sad, and tried to encourage us daily by suggesting we could leave for Nangasackij as soon as the answer of the king came in. He also had the wounded cure, so we received a treatment from a heathen which would have ashamed many a Christian.

On October 29th in the afternoon, the bookkeeper, the head coxswain and the petty barber were summoned before the governor. When they came to him they found a man there with a long red beard. The governor asked them what kind of man that was, whereupon they answered: a Hollander like us. Hereupon the the governor started to laugh and motioned or said that this was a Coreese man. After a lot of talking and motioning on both sides, the man, who had been silent thus far, asked, in very crooked Dutch, what kind of people we were and where we came from. We answered him "Hollanders (Dutch, coming from the province of Holland, which is a part of the Seven United Netherlands) from Amsterdam." Furthermore he asked us where we came from and where we were going to. Our people answered hereupon that they came from Taijoan with the intention to go to Nangasackij. This however, was prevented by the Almighty. Because of a storm which had lasted for five days, we stranded on this island and expected now a lenient solution.

Our people asked him for his name, from what country he came and how he had come there. He answered thus: "My name is Jan Janse Weltevree from De Rijp. I came in 1626 with the ship Hollandia from the fatherland and in 1626, while going to Iapan with the jaght Ouwerkerck, due to the unfavorable wind, we stranded at the coast of Coree. We needed water and we went with the boat ashore, where three of us we captured by the inhabitants. The boat with the remaining companions got away and the ship left immediately." He said furthermore that his two companions were killed after 17 or 18 year, when the Tartar came into the country, were killed. They were (called) Dirk Gijsbertsz from De Rijp and Jan Pieterse Verbaest from Amsterdam.

They asked him also where he lived, how he made a living and why he came to the island. He said that he stayed in the kings city (Seoul). He received from the king a royal maintenance and that he was sent there to find out what kind of people we were and how we got there. He told us further that he had asked the king and other high administrators to be sent to Iapan. This, however was him forbidden all the time.

He said that if we were birds, we could fly to there. They don't send foreigners from this country. They will provide you with a living and for clothes and in this way you will have to end your life in this country. He tried to comfort us in this way. Even if we came in front of the king, we couldn't expect anything else, so that our joy of having found an interpreter, almost changed into sadness. It was remarkable that this man, of 57 or 58 years old, almost had forgotten his mother tongue, so that we hardly could understand him and had learned it again within a month.

All the previously mentioned was pertinently written down by order of the governor, after which it was read aloud and translated by the previously mentioned Jan Janszoon, so that this could be sent to the court with the first favorable wind. The governor gave us daily a fresh heart by saying that he expected an answer with the first boat and that this answer, according to him, would contain the answer that we could leave for Iapan on short notice, we had to resign with our fate. He showed us nothing but friendship, as long as his time lasted. He had us visited daily by the previously mentioned Weltevree and one of his officers or Opper (=head) Benjoesen (pronounced as Benyusen), to let him know what happened.

In the beginning of December the new governor arrived, because the last one's term of three years had expired. We were extremely sad about this, because we were worried that new lords would mean new laws and so it happened. Since it became cold and we had only a few clothes, the old governor had made us a long lined robe, with a pair of leather socks and a pair of shoes, so we could protect our selves against the cold. He also gave us the salvaged books as well as a big tankard of oil, so we could pass the winter.

On his farewell meal he treated us very well, and had us told through the previously mentioned Weltevree that he regretted it very much that he wasn't['t allowed to sent us go to Iapan or could take us with him to the mainland. We shouldn't be too sad about his departure, since as soon as he arrived at the court he would do all his efforts to bring us from the island to the court. We thanked the governor very friendly for all the mentioned friendliness.

As soon as the new governor took office, he didn't receive any additional food, so that most of our meals consisted only of some rice and salt and a sip of water. We complained to the other governor, who was still on the island because of onshore wind, but he replied that his term as governor was finished and he couldn't do anything. But he would write to the new governor, so that, as long as he was there, we got from the new one, to prevent complaints, some side dishes

1654 In the beginning of January the old governor left and that worsened the situation. Now one gave us wheat, millet and barley flour instead of rice without any side dishes So if we wanted to have some side dishes we sold our millet. Daily we had to be satisfied with portion of 3/4 of barley flour. We could however continue to go out daily with six men at the same time. So very disheartened we sought for all kinds of means (of existence) because the harvest time and the monsoon were also due.

Because it took a long time before the answer of the king arrived, we were afraid to stay forever at the island and to end our lives in prison, so we looked out for possibilities to escape, maybe there was at night a boat which would be on the shore with all the necessary things, so we could take that so we could take to our heels. This happened at the end of April, when a few of our people, among them the chief navigator and three other of the salvaged mates, made their first attempt. As we have understood it, one of our companions would climb over the wall to look the ship and the tide of the water. The guard became aware of this because either a dog started to bark, or in another way. They kept guard very strictly, so that even before our mates could get going, they were pushed back.

In the beginning of the month of May, the coxswain, who was on leave with five other companions (among them three of the previous attempt), saw in a village not far from the city a ship with all the necessities on board. Immediately they sent a man back home to fetch two pieces of bread for each and a plaiting (a piece of rope which is twined in a flat way). When they were together again, each took a sip of water of water and went, without taking anything else in the boat. They pulled this over a sandbank, in the presence of some villagers, who watched very surprised, not knowing what to do. Eventually one of the villagers entered his house and took a musket and followed those in the boat, wading through the water. They came offshore, except the one who couldn't get into the boat, since he loosened the hawsers and therefore he chose the shore. The ones in the boat hoisted sail, but because they couldn't handle the rigging very well the the mast with the sail fell overboard. With a lot of effort they managed to erect the mast again. When they had tied the sail with the plaiting to the mast and the thwart (the rowing bench), the pin with which the mast is fixed broke, so the mast with the sail fell again overboard. They couldn't erect it anymore and drifted therefore back ashore. Some villagers, who saw this, went immediately after them with another boat.

Having arrived there, our mates jumped unexpectedly into the other ship, and even though the villagers were armed, they were of the opinion that they could throw them over board. This ship however was almost full with water and wasn't seaworthy so they sailed altogether back ashore. They were taken before the governor. He had them tied up really tight with a heavy plank with a chain around their neck, one hand was nailed by means of a clamp against the plank.

They were thrown in front of him. The others were also fetched from the house in which they were imprisoned. They were also tied very well, and were also brought before the governor. There we saw our mates lying in a deplorable situation.

The governor had them questioned whether they did this without the knowledge of the others. They answered that this happened without the knowledge if the others to advance that the others would not be burdened and their mates would not be punished. To that the governor asked what they had planned.They answered that they wanted to go to Iapan whereupon the governor asked if they thought this could be done with such a small boat and without water and so little bread. They answered that they it was better to die fast than to die a lingering dead. He had them untied and had each given 25 blows on the bare buttocks with a stick which is about one fathom long and a finger thick at the bottom and round on the top. As a result they had to stay in bed for about a month, additionally we were not allowed to go out and were strictly guarded day and night. This island which is called Schelue (Cheju ) by them and Quelpaert by us. It lies as previously mentioned on 33 degrees 32 minutes latitude, twelve to thirteen miles south from the south point of the mainland or Coree. It has at the inside or the north side a bay, in which the ships come. From there they sail to the mainland. It is dangerous to come in for those who don't know it. It can't be sailed by those who don't know it, because of the invisible cliffs. Many who sail there and miss the bay, eventually drift to Iapan. There is, besides that bay, no roadstead or port of refuge. The island has a lot of visible and invisible cliffs and reefs on all sides. The country is very populated and is fertile for the life stock: there is an abundance of horses and cattle. Yearly they give a lot of income to the king. The inhabitants are poor people and considered to be simple by those of the mainland, they aren't esteemed very high. There is a high mountain, full with trees and further there are mainly bare mountains without any trees and many valleys where they cultivate rice.

At the end of May the long expected message from the king arrived. To our sadness we had to come to the court, that changed into joy, because we were to be released from our prison. Six or seven days later we were divided over four junks and with both our legs and a hand locked in a block because they worried that we run off one or the other ship. We would have certainly done this if we would have been unlocked, because the soldiers who had to guard us were seasick during the biggest part of the crossing. After we had sat two days like that, and couldn't make any progress as a result of the head wind, we were unlocked again and brought back to our house of detention. Four or five days later the wind came from the right angle and we were taken aboard of the junks at daybreak, where we were locked in the same way as before. The anchors were weighed and the sails hoisted. Already at the evening of the same day we found ourselves close to the mainland where we anchored.

The next day we were freed from the junks and brought ashore. There we were strictly guarded by the soldiers. The other day we got horses and rode to a city called Heijnam (Haenam, near Kangjin, an important big city in Cholla-do during the Chosôn period), where we joined at night all 36 together, and to prevent difficulties and punishment from those who were in charge, the junks moored at different places. The next day after we had eaten something, we were on horseback again, and came at night in a city called Ieham (Yôngam). At night gunman Paulus Janse Cool from Purmerent died there. He had never been healthy since the loss of the ship. By order of the city governor he was buried in our presence. From the grave we moved onto a city called Naedjoo (Naju). The next day we moved on again and stayed the night in a city called Sansiangh (Changsông), from where we left in the morning and stayed in the city Tiongop (Chôngûp), passed that day a high fortress, where lay a big reinforcement which was called Iipam sansiang (Ipamsansông). After we had stayed in the city left in the morning and arrived on the same day in the city Teijn (Tae'in).The next day we sat on horseback again and came in the afternoon in a small city called Kumge(Kûmku), after we had taken a lunch we left again and arrived in the evening in a big city called Chentio (Chônju), where the king in ancient times had his court and the stadholder of Thiollado (Chôllado) lives there. [This city] is considered throughout the country as a big commercial center, which couldn't be reached by water, and therefore a city surrounded by land. The next morning we left again and arrived at night in a city called Iesaen (Yôsan), this was the last city from the province of Thiollado from where we left in the morning on horseback again, and stayed in a small city called Gunjiu (Ûnjin), which laid in the province Tiongsiangdo (Chungchôndo), left the next day to a city called Iensaen (Yonsan): where we stayed the night and were on horseback again the next morning. And arrived at night in a city called Congtio (Kongju), where the Stadholder of the before mentioned province has his court, the next day we passed a big river, and came into the province of Senggado (Kyonggido) where the Kings city lies. (Click for map)

Hamel mixes up freely the I and J so the above mentioned names could be read either with a J or an I. For pronunciation rules click here

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