The Wooden 30 gun sailing ship De Liefde was built for the VOC Amsterdam (Dutch East India Company) in 1698. She measured 266.0′ x 44.0′ and her tonnage was 1109 bm. She was the third ship owned by the company to bear the name. The first was lost near Japan in 1600, the second also lost in the Bay of Padua in 1668.
The De Liefde was en route from Texel to Batavia under the command of Captain Barent Meikens with a sailing crew of around 200 aboard plus 100 Dutch soldiers. She had sailed from Amsterdam in late October 1711 before taking on a heavy general cargo and the necessary stores for her long voyage to the East Indies. On the 3rd November she set out, accompanied by two other smaller vessels, the Mossel and the Kockenge, heading round the north of Scotland before turning south into the Atlantic. As they crossed the North Sea they joined a larger convoy with other ships heading, not only, to the East Indies but to other VOC destinations in the West Indies, Russia and the Mediterranean. The War of Spanish Succession was underway in Europe making passage through the English Channel very risky so most Dutch ships headed north round the tip of Scotland before setting course to their intended destinations.
By the time the small fleet reached the area of Shetland they had encountered a violent storm and it appears seven of the fleet were lost including the De Liefde. The exact details and reasons for the wrecking are not clear as there was to be only one survivor but it is clear the ship went aground at Dregging Geo, Mio Ness on the Out Skerries on 7th November and quickly went to pieces.
There were a few attempts at salvage in the years following the loss of the ship. The success or otherwise of these efforts are not known and it is certain that the local population helped themselves to any remains that they were able to be reach or were cast ashore by the sea. It was not until 1964 that the site was rediscovered by Navy divers which initiated a series of expeditions to the site over the next forty years or more. Various expeditions were able to recover many coins until, in 1967, a company was formed to salvage the wreck obtaining a licence from the Dutch government to exclusively recover artefacts from the site. Using small explosive charges to release the remains from the concretions the company was able to recover many coins and other artefacts from the site including the spectacular discovery of an intact chest of coins and the recovery of more than 4000 silver coins and some gold ducats in the first season.
In the early 1970s more archaeologically based expeditions to the site began to record the remains in detail and were again successful in the recovery of more artefacts from the site although some of these expeditions were to encounter resistance and even legal challenge from the incumbent salvor. As a result it is not clear that the details of the site available in the archaeological record are complete. There are reports on further wreckage lying in deeper water offshore from the main site but the accuracy of these reports and any further details of this position remain uncertain. Small numbers of coins continue to be recovered from the site until the present day.