In 1595 four ships departed from Amsterdam for the first trading mission to East India. This Dutch fleet was typical during the era of maritime explorations in the late 16th century, which led to the foundation of the Dutch East India Company and the beginning of the Golden Age. Despite extensive publication of the journals and reports, as far as known no archaeological research has ever been conducted to find any physical remains of this expedition.
The expedition fleet temporarily anchored at Nosy Manitsa, also known as The Dutch Cemetery (Dutch: Het Hollandse Kerkhof), a small island on the southwest coast of Madagascar. Estimates based on the reports of the journeys suggest that twenty to thirty Dutch sailors have been buried on the island after they died of scurvy. Surveying this location will provide an unique opportunity to try and find any remains of these 16th century sailors. It can then be determined how they were buried in a far away and remote area and to study the effects of scurvy.
In August 2013 a first reconnaissance survey on Nosy Manitsa was done in collaboration with the Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE), and the University of Amsterdam. The Madagascar based company Cinéroutes was asked to visit Nosy Manitsa and to make a reconnaissance survey at the island. A few specific locations were studied in more detail. The report and video of this preliminary survey resulted in a lot of insights and information about the island, its challenging logistics, the options for lodging and about the cooperation of the local Malagasy people.
Currently plans are being made for a return to the island in March/April 2016 in close collaboration with the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar authorities and the Faculty of Archaeology of Leiden University. The objective is to survey the Northern part of the island and to try and locate the burial place. Geophysical methods like GPR and magnetometry will be used for locating the burials.