Hendrick Hamel

Hendrick Hamel was born in 1630 in Gorkum. He was baptized on August 22 (*). His parents were mentioned in a genealogical record as Dirck Frericks Hamel and Margaretha Verhaar, dochter van Hendrik Verhaar en Cunera van Wevelinckhoven. In his baptismal record we read that his mother was Margrietgen Heyndricks. His father has been married three times, which was not uncommon in those days. In the 17th century people were not always mentioned in the same way. Sometimes with their surname, sometimes with their patronymic, sometimes even not with a last name at all. Most likely are Margaretha Verhaar and Margrietgen Heyndricks one and the same person

On November 6, 1650 he left on board of the jaght the Vogel Struijs (Ostrich) from the Landdiep at Texel (an Island in the north of Holland) to the Indies. On July 4, 1651 he arrived in the port of Batavia.

On the ship's rolls of the Vogel Struijs Hamel was enlisted as Bosschieter, which means gunman. Obviously a mentioning like that, didn't mean much. We read for instance that the later governor-general Wiese on his journey to the Indies was mentioned on the ship's rolls as hooploper, which means ordinary seaman. If we also know that Wiese had to call Van der Parre at that time governor, granduncle, one has to draw the conclusion that his name was only put on the ships rolls to give him free passage

Maybe Hamel came with good recommendations to the Indies and owes his promotion as "soldier on the pen" to this. First as assistant and later as bookkeeper. Therefore was his starting salary increased to f 30 per month. The salary of his fellow passenger of the "Vogel Struijs", the bosschieter Jan Pieters van Hoogeveen was in 1653 f 11 per month. In rank this bookkeeper equaled the coxswain.

On June 18, Hamel left Batavia on board of the Sperwer on his way to Taiwan in this function. Without experiencing any bad luck it arrived here on July 16, 1653. The jaght left Batavia somewhat late because initially it waited for a number of militaries who had to come from Holland to be stationed in Taiwan. After waiting in vain for some time for the arrival of the ship from Holland on which the militaries were, it was decided to let the jaght the Sperwer go to Taiwan without the militaries. In the meantime the favorable season for such a journey was almost at its end.

On the route from Batavia to Taiwan, the weather didn't cause any problems yet. It was fine and the journey prosperous. From the Journael it is known that the second part of the journey, from Taiwan to Nagasaki was less favorable. At hindsight we might conclude that the adventure of Hamel and his mates was a consequence of the late departure from Batavia.

After the Sperwer had been declared lost officially, an order from governor Joan Maetsuyker was issued in which it was explicitly forbidden to send ships to the waters north of Taiwan after July 1, in connection with the hurricanes which use to rage after that date in the seas between China and Japan.

What happened with Hamel and his mates after their departure from Taiwan is extensively described in the Journael. Whether or not Hendrick Hamel is the author of the Journael is not proven without doubt. But it is very likely. The writing of such a report was the task of a bookkeeper.

Hamel speaks about himself in the Journael as the third person. That was not uncommon in those days. Hamel didn't sign the Journael, which was also common in those days. Reports were rarely signed by their author. All his contemporaries by the way, considered Hamel always as the author. There is also little reason to doubt this.
The question remains however when he wrote it. It lies at hand that it happened during his forced stay at Deshima. After their fortunate escape from Korea, Hamel and his mates hoped already to leave with the flyship [a narrow type of ship also called a flute] Espérance on October 23, 1666 to Batavia. They received no permission to do so however and had to stay another year on Deshima.

Two days later, on October 25, the interrogation took place. This interrogation is dated on September 14, 1666. That was the day on which Hamel and his mates arrived with the little Korean fishermen's boat at Nagasaki. Obviously then the interrogation already took place. There were two interpreters present: a Hollander and a Japanese, who both spoke Portuguese. That's why the interrogation took the biggest part of that day and Hamel and his mates only crossed the bridge to Deshima towards the evening, where they were welcomed heartily by the chief and the other employees of the VOC. The notorious 'precisiteyt' (preciseness) of the Japanese required that the questions and answers were copied in Japanese and subsequently read out loud on October 25, to Hamel and his mates, with which again two interpreters had to assist. On one of those occasions, so on September 14, or on October 25, Hamel had probably the opportunity to copy the questions and answers or to make notes. Another, maybe more obvious possibility, was that the interpreter of the VOC made those notes.

An official report of the chief, dated October 18, 1666, when Mr. Volger had already embarked and was already on board of the Espérance, he wrote to the governor general that the adventures of the person from the shipwreck of the Sperwer had to be written down. It may be assumed that Hamel had the assignment to write this report before his departure. Whether Hamel, while writing the Journael, had notes at his disposal, is unsure. He mentions so many places and so many dates that one is tempted to assume that he kept a diary in Korea. On the other hand he never mentions exact dates, which he would have done if he would have written the Journael by means of a diary. So if he had notes at his disposal, these must have been very brief.

He must have relied on his memory and that of his mates, while writing the Journael. When on October 22 of the next year finally the permission to leave arrives, Hamel will have finished the Journael for a long time. On the same day Hendrick Hamel and his mates embark on the Spreeuw, which was ready to sail out. The journey back to Batavia didn't go via Formosa, because this island was lost in 1662. In that year fort Zeelandia was conquered by a descendant of the Ming dynasty. The Spreeuw chooses the deep blue sea on October 23 and arrives on November 28 at Batavia. Here was, according to the daily reports of Joan Maetsuyker, the Journael handed over to the last-mentioned.
The mates of Hendrick Hamel traveled through to their fatherland, with the same ship with which they arrived at Batavia. They arrived there on July 20, 1668. Hamel himself however stayed behind in the Indies.

It was told that he was a bachelor and because of that was less homesick for Holland. The manuscript which is in the archives of the State in the Hague is considered to be an original document as written by Hamel, on the basis of a careful text analysis. It was sent to Holland by the governor general, after a handwritten copy was made for the archives in Batavia. This copy however is lost.

Striking is that Hamel, at the end of the Journael did write down the date on which he and his mates did leave for Batavia, but that the date on which the Spreeuw arrived at Batavia isn't filled in. It is assumed that Hamel in 1669 returned back to Holland, at the same time with the second group of rescued persons who survived the shipwrecking. When that exactly happened and with which ship is not to be retrieved anymore. In August 1670 he appeared with two members of the second group, in front of the Heeren XVII, to ask for the payment of their wages over the period of their imprisonment in Korea.

The same request was already done by the first group. The Heeren XVII had already turned away this request. And also in 1670 they rejected the request. Servants of the VOC only had the right to wages for the time during which they were on board of one of the ships of the VOC or if they were in one of the factories.

This was a hard and strict rule, from which the Heeren XVII, under no condition, wanted to deviate. Out of humanitarian considerations, they decided however to give to all the surviving members of the Sperwer an amount of money. This amount will be in no proportion to the amount of the total of their wages during their thirteen years long stay in Korea. It was clear that the VOC was a trade company and not a charitable institution.

Of the further life of Hamel is as little known as of his life before the Korean adventure. In a handwritten document, which is kept in Gorkum, of around 1734 is written that Hamel settled himself in Gorkum in 1670. Some years later, it is not known when exactly, he left again to the Indies. About his stay there, one can't find any data. But in 1690, or a little bit earlier, he's back in Gorkum. Here he dies, "vrijer zijnde" (still being a bachelor), on February 12, 1692. He is then 62 years old.


Additional investigation shows:

In the meantime there are in memory of Hamel the following landmarks found:

Gorkum : Hendrik Hamel straat.
In the Linge district since July 7, 1930.
Gorkum: a statue has been erected as well as in Kangjin (Korea) where Hamel and his mates lived.
As an homage to Hendrick Hamel who was born in the Kortedijk next to the premises of number 65.
Heusden: Hamel Park
In Heusden there have been several mayors who were called Hamel at around 1500; they were the ancestors of Hendrick.
The Hague: Hendrik Hamel straat (=Street)
Hendrik Hamel plantsoen. (=Park)
1st Western expert on Korea 1630-1692.

The name Hendrick and Hendrik are used in the same way, Hendrick being the 17th century spelling, Hendrik the modern one, therefor the original Journael uses Hendrick

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