Last Voyage of the Kalmar Nyckel

Last Voyage of the Kalmar Nyckel

The following day, Kalmar Sleutel was ordered to join the escort squadron protecting

the Dutch herring fleet, which was out sailing off the Shetland Islands, north of Scotland.

The herring fleet—“the Great Fishery”—was the first to develop industrialized fishing.

Its influence on the Dutch economy in the 17th century was comparable to the more famous Dutch trading fleets,

the East India Company (VOC) and the West India Company (WIC).

The scale of the Great Fishery was enormous, with 2,000 fishing boats at work

in the North Sea and 150,000 tons of fish exported from the Netherlands for profit in 1614 alone.

One-fifth of the Dutch population was employed in the fishing business, and Dutch capitalism contributed many innovations to the industry,

including the development of drift nets to catch shoals of herring, which are still used today.

The fishing vessels, called busses, were an innovation all their own,

sturdy ships with flat bottoms that could be beached for quick and convenient offloading.

About seventy feet in length and manned by fifteen crew, busses were often worked by whole families, women and children included, making them a kind of floating cottage industry.

For the next two weeks Captain Vijgh and crew undertook a flurry of final preparations, taking on 1,000 pounds of gunpowder and four more guns, for a total of 26.

On 7 June, Kalmar Sleutel moved to Den Briel, a staging harbor located at the mouth of the Maas River, where Captain Vijgh took on more gunpowder and awaited the command to sail.

A week later, with the winds of war upon them, Captain Vijgh and his crew set sail for the Shetlands on what would be the Kalmar Sleutel’s last voyage.

They were joined by the Sphera Mundi, which would serve with them as part of the “buss patrol.”

It was likely the early part of July by the time they met up with the fishing fleet.

They joined the escorts under Admiral Dirck Claesz van Dongen in the Sint Paulus Bekeering and began to shepherd the 600 herring busses.

All was well as the fishermen went about their business, setting drift nets and hauling back vast shoals of herring, the “silver of the seas.”

The fishers knew to be wary of the English, but probably did not know that war had been declared on 10 July 1652.

They sailed undisturbed as they headed south of Fair Isle, reaching toward the Scottish coast.

They were somewhere near Buchan Ness on Thursday morning,

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