the History of Wieringen
VOC (Dutch East Indies Company) and quarantaine
With these ships the Dutch sailed to the Indies
|In the 17th and 18th century not Brittannia, but the Netherlands (more precisely, the Republic of the Seven United Provinces) ruled the waves. More precise: the Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC, or Dutch East Indies Company), the first modern multinational enterprise, controlled all trade with the far east.|
Numerous Dutch ships sailed to and from important harbours as Amsterdam, Hoorn and Enkhuizen, carrying costly spices and porcelain. Unfortunately, this was not the only thing these ships carried home. Working on a sailing ship in these days was a unhealthy profession. Many times only half of the original crew returned from a trip to the East, a voyage that took more than a year. The crew died from starvation, lack of vitamins, or one of the many tropical diseases that they came in contact with.
|In order to prevent that the sick sailors spread the foreign diseases in the Netherlands all ships had to undergo a quarantaine. Wieringen became the place where this had to be done, for a number of reasons. First of all, the island was remote enough for any escaping disease to be dealt with without getting out of control. Second: Wieringen was on the route, and many ships had to stop here anyway to unload their cargo to smaller ships, because the Zuiderzee was not deep enough for the heavily laden ships.|
So it came to be that all ships had to anchor before the westcoast of Wieringen, at a point that is called "the Quarantaine" to this very day. The ships were inspected, and any suspect crew member had to remain on Wieringen, at the Quarantaine-centre. When someone was seriously ill, he was taken to the Hospital in Den Oever. This Hospital no longer exists, but is still remembered in the name of the street where it once was: the Gasthuisweg ("Hospital-road")
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