Rare cannon find off Mandal

In August 2020, Mandal diving club found a cannon on the sea bed at 20 meters depth near Skjernøy, off the coast of Mandal in Southern Norway. Due to concerns of looting the museum decided it was best to remove the cannon. The rare find is unique to Norway.

In cooperation with Mandal diving club the Norwegian Maritime Museum retrieved the cannon, which is now undergoing conservation at the museum. At first glance the cannon appeared to be made of bronze. Further examination revealed that the cannon was made of a metal composite. This type of cannon was used by the Dutch East India and Dutch West India Company around 1630. Similar cannons have been found in the Indian Ocean but never in Norway.

Due to the risk of looting it was decided, with the agreement of Agder Fylkeskommune, to move the cannon to the Norwegian Maritime Museum.

  • En dykker inspiserer enden av en kanon under vann. Kanonen har tilnærmet turkis farge, og er stedvis begrodd med rødbrune flekker. Et hvitt parti på siden av kanonen er også synlig. Kanonen ligger på en steinur under vann. Steinene har rødlig farge, og det er flere sjøstjerner samt en fisk synlige i bildet. (Foto/Photo)
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    A diver from Mandal diving club inspecting the cannon. Erling Tønnessen
  • Kanon med tilnærmet turkis farge, stedvis begrodd med rødbrune flekker, ligger på en steinur under vann. Steinene har rødlig farge. Hendene til en dykker holder en tommestokk og måler kanonen. (Foto/Photo)
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    A diver from Mandal diving club measuring the cannon. Erling Tønnessen

Upon arrival at the museum the cannon was scanned, photographed and measured before starting the conservation process. It is just under 120 cm long and weighs 90 kg. The bore diameter is between 75 and 76 mm. A "V" and an "o" are inscribed on the upper side of the cannon's rear end. In addition to this there is something resembling a cross inscribed in the same area, though this is partially covered by concretion. The cannon is covered by marine growth and concretion in some places, making some details difficult to discern at this stage. Hopefully, further treatment in the conservation lab will make some of these easier to see.

A 3D model of the cannon can be found at the bottom of this page.

  • Kanon ligger polstret med bildekk på et bord i et laboratorium. En person holder en bærbar datamskin tilkoblet en håndholdt skanner og måler inn kanonen i 3D. En person fotograferer kanonen fra motsatt side. (Foto/Photo)
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    The cannon is scanned and photographed in the museum's conservation laboratory. Norsk Maritimt Museum / Frode Kvalø
  • Bakre ende av kanon. Metallet er grønt etter å ha ligget i sjøen i lang tid, stedvis er det også brun-oransje rustklumper. En "V" og en "o" er risset inn på bakstykket av kanonen. Noe bortenfor dette er også noe som kan være et innrisset kors, delvis dekt av korrosjon. (Foto/Photo)
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    "V" and "o" inscribed on the rear end of the cannon. To the right of these is a cross, partially covered by concretion. Norsk Maritimt Museum

How did this cannon come to be at Skjernøya?

The route to the Caribbean or Indonesia did not generally lie along the coast of southern Norway. However, the 17th Century conflicts between the Netherlands and England meant Dutch seafarers chose routes around the coast of Scotland instead of risking confrontation in the English Channel. Perhaps a ship was blown off course and sunk on the skerries off Mandal?

A written source reveals that a Dutch ship named the Black Raven sank in the same area in 1653. Unfortunately the source does not give any additional information relating to the size or planned destination of the ship, but the dating and provenance does match the cannon. Perhaps there is undiscovered wreckage nearby that will cast further light on the cannon in years to come. 

Similar cannon in Australia

North of Perth in Western Australia the wreck of the Batavia was found in the 1960’s. On board were found cannons (BAT 3641/BAT3642) that had identical features to the cannon found in southern Norway.  The cannon from Mandal is half the size but the method of construction and the relative placement of the cannon parts is the same. For more information on the Batavia, see The Western Australian Museum:

https://museum.wa.gov.au/research/research-areas/maritime-archaeology/batavia-cape-inscription/batavia

  • Tegning av en av kanonene funnet på den nederlandske ostindiafareren Batavia, som forliste utenfor vestkysten av Australia i 1629. (Foto/Photo)
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    Illustration of one of the cannons from the Batavia, wrecked off the coast of Western Australia in 1629. From Green 1989:39
  • Kanonen fra Mandal sett ovenfra, fra siden og bakfra. (Foto/Photo)
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    The cannon found in Mandal seen from the top, the side and the rear. NMM

Sources

Green, Jeremy N. The Loss of the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie Retourschip
Batavia, Western Australia 1629: An Excavation Report and Catalogue of
Artifacts
. BAR International Series 489. Oxford: British Archaeological
Reports, 1989.

Contact

Frode Kvalø

Frode Kvalø

Archaeologist, researcher