Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Mercator Reveals its Secret

When Yves Heraly sent word that records had been found on the Mercator, I immediately tried to find out more. I will always remember the excursion to Ostend to see the Mercator with my father, back in 1969. We later took our own kids to see that beautiful ship when we returned to Belgium some 20 years later.
The old training ship of the Belgian merchant marine sailed from 1932 to 1960 before being turned into a museum docked in Ostend. His name is, among other things, linked with the return of Father Damiens' remains on May 3, 1936.
During recent restoration work, a cache of archives (4 linear meters) was uncovered from behind the side pocket. The documents will be housed at the Rijksarchief te Bruge (Kingdom Archives at Bruges) along with more uncatalogued records (8 linear meters) on the Mercator - previously held at the Rijksarchief te Beveren (Kingdom Archives at Beveren).
Maurice Vandermaessen hopes to have a first cataloguing of the records done before the end of 2009 but much will depend on the nature of the Beveren Archives and unexpected discoveries.

On May 13, 2009 Maurice Vandermaesen, head of the Flemish Flanders Department followed the transfer in the company of Kris Peeters, Minister-President of Flanders and of Karel Velle, General Archivist of Belgium.

The archives cover the 1928-1960 period:
- books on its building
- technical reports on its 41 cruises
- documents on supplies
- the crew
- the formation of cadets
- weather reports
- medical information

As a side note, the Catholic church announced in February 2009 that Damien de Veuster, (January 3, 1840, Tremelo, Belgium – April 15, 1889, Kalaupapa, Molokai, Hawaii), born Jozef de Veuster and also known as Blessed Damien of Molokai, Apostle to the Lepers would be canonized a saint on October 11, 2009.

The fact that his remains were returned to Belgium on the Mercator and that he was first brought to Doel had a great impact on things.
You might also take a look at this site on the Waasland available for free at

Watch the video below for more details on the discovery - in Dutch
found at
Just click on the "Video" tab