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The bronze canon of the Alphen

In 2007, while renewing the quay of the Kleine Werf, a bronze canon was found eight meters below the surface. Further investigation showed that the gun came from the frigate Alphen that exploded and sank in 1778 in the port of Willemstad. Because of the explosion the canon was slung into the water and landed at the Kleine Werf. Because no one had seen that, that place was not searched. Later the Kleine Werf was expanded and a quay was built over the canon.

The canon

The canon is a so called bronze hunter, a long six-pounder canon from the artillery- and bellfoundry of Pieter Seest in Amsterdam. It is the largest known canon of this foundry. On the cannon is written: ‘Me Fecit Pieter Seest Amstelodami Ao 1776’ which means made by Pieter Seest in Amsterdam in 1776.

The length of the canon is 269 cm and the diameter of the barrel is 9.7 cm, fitting canonballs of six pounds. On the canon, two dolphins were put on that served to hoist the canon. The gun weighs 1600 pounds.

The ship

This canon was made ​ ​ for the Admiralty of Amsterdam. The arms of the Admiralty on the canon is a shield with a standing lion, holding a sword in his right leg, a sign of sovereignty and In his left leg seven arrows, supposing the Seven Provinces. The two capital letters A left and right of the shield are the initials of Admiralty and Amsterdam.

The damages to the canon and arms were probably made by the excavating machine that found the canon in the Kleine Werf.

(Information above provided by Francois van der Hoeven)

Current location

The canon is the property of Curaçao, is managed by the National Anthropological and Archaeological Foundation Memory Management (NAAM) and is lent to the Curaçao Maritime Museum.

It's accompanied by displays that tell the horrific story of September 15, 1778 at approximately 8:00 AM, when the Alphen exploded in the harbor (Anna baai) of Curaçao. 202 of the 227 crew members, including the captain, died in the explosion. 50 people of the local population were also killed. The cause of the explosion is as yet unkown.

Interested and need more information?

Read more about the history of the Dutch warship built in 1763, with a story about life aboard an investigation into the circumstances of the disaster, a report of the archaeological investigation of the wreck and the discoveries he found. The ill-fated history of the Dutch frigate Alphen exploded and sank in 1778 in the port of Curaçao.

Title: "De Noodlottige Geschiedenis Van Het Hollandse Fregat Alphen" (The Fateful History The Dutch frigate Van Alphen)
Author: W.P. Nagelkerken - GVO|Ponsen & Looijen, Ede - 2009
Language: Dutch - 350 pages
ISBN: 9789064643460

Also for sale at the museum shop.