Graeme Cocks. Through Darkest Seas. Motoring Past Vintage Publishing, 2023
465 pages. Includes B&W photos, maps and engravings, Glossary, and Index.
Reviewed by Benno van Tilburg
Twenty-five years ago on 21 January 1999 was the launching in Fremantle of the replica ship Duyfken and this was exactly the first time I got the idea of bringing the Duyfken to the Netherlands. At that time I was Director of the Maritime & Beachcomber Museum (now named Kaap Skil) at the island Texel in the north of the Netherlands. This museum is situated at the harbour of Oudeschild were the former Texel roadstead was. From the Texel roadstead in the period 1500-1800 hundreds and hundreds of ships were waiting for good winds to begin and end their journey to the East. Texel was flourishing due to the activities in this period of the Dutch India Company (VOC) and was an important place were the crew and the provisions went on board. The VOC existed in the period 1602-1798 and in 2002 the Dutch were planning all kinds of festivities of the start 400 years ago (1602) of this so called first multinational. I want to take part in the festivities in 2002 with bringing back to live the Texel Roadstead and was desperately seeking for ships to fill that gap. But there were no more VOC ships and the replicas in The Netherlands like the Amsterdam and Batavia not available. So reading in 1999 about the launching of the Duyfken plants the seed in my mind to look for the Duyfken to visit in 2002 the Texel Roadstead…
In 2000 I wrote to the Duyfken foundation about my ideas of getting the Duyfken to the Netherlands and got in contact with Graeme Cocks. Thank God that email already was there so we could gap the time difference easy between Australia and the Netherlands and discuss this big project. In his fascinating and very detailed book Graeme describes very entertaining and just the first contact between him and me. Reading the book all this come back to me after 25 years and besides my own involvement of the Duyfken from 2000 till the day of today because we will try to get the Duyfken once again to the Netherlands for Sail Amsterdam 2025 I must say this book from the start till the end is a worthwhile reading journey through the shared past of Australia and the Netherlands. Every lover of maritime history and entrepreneur has to read this book because of the richness of details of making a project comes to life and live the dream with all the problems during the journey. The book is based on a secure research of the writer as the building of the replica itself was based on the right and just grounds concerning shipbuilding. This replica not only looks great but sails even better!
This book is a blueprint how to deal with managerial problems with a project this scale and can be used for all connecting projects in the future. The bottom line is keep your faith in the project, never give up and there can always be a Plan B.
Graeme Cocks as the former project leader and author of this book is sure the right ambassador not only for the Duyfken but also for bringing alive an important part of the history of Australia around 1606 when the original Duyfken set ashore on Australian ground. This book makes it clear that this project has made an amazing contribution to the maritime history not only for Australia but also for The Netherlands. We can be happy that this piece of history is now available in this voluptuous and must read book.
Benno van Tilburg
Maritime specialist and former chairman of the Duyfken Foundation The Netherlands