Christmas disaster on the Roads

Christmas disaster near Texel, 1593; Original engraving

On December 24, 1593, 140 cargo ships were anchored on the Texel Roads. The majority were loaded with grain, destined for Italy. The winds were not in their favour and they could not leave the Roads. A southwesterly storm struck that night, with gusts strong enough to sweep several ships from their anchor. Collision with other ships was unavoidable.

Masts broke, and more and more wayward ships crashed into each other with violent cracking noises. Complete chaos ensued in the pitch black darkness. More than 40 ships perished that night, and hundreds of seamen lost their lives. Twenty of the sunken ships were insured by the Amsterdam grain merchant Roemer Visscher. Shortly after Christmas, Visscher’s second daughter was born. He called her Marrigtjen (Maria) Tesselschade, “so that no one will ever forget this disaster”. Maria would later become a famous poet. A wreck discovered in the Scheurrak has been identified as one of the ships lost during this Christmas storm. A lot of grain was found in the hold, which is now being stored at the Batavia wharf in Lelystad.

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