In September 1652 the flute Lastdrager and two other ships, the Diamant and the Winthondt, left Texel heading for Goree intending to join up with a vast fleet of around 600 ships heading out of the North Sea into the Atlantic and onwards to the worldwide trading network operated by the Dutch East India Company. The Lastdrager had previously made a number of successful trips to the East Indies but this latest trip was to be her last. The huge fleet was being assembled for protection by a fleet of Dutch Naval ships. The first Dutch war was raging making any Dutch vessel the target for enemy ships. However, en route, they encountered a storm which resulted in both the Diamant and the Windholdt being driven ashore and lost. The Lastdrager also grounded at one point, sustaining some damage, but managed to limp back in to Texel where she was examined and repaired. On 6th February 1653 the Lastdrager, with 205 men aboard, finally left Texel, accompanied by the yacht Avenhoorn, and headed out on the route round the north of Scotland on what as to be her final voyage.
The details of the wrecking are available from a witness statement by a nineteen year old crew member Johannes Camphuijs, the only survivor of the wreck. The voyage went well for the first three days but when the ship was close to Fair Isle they encountered a severe gale and, with temperatures plummeting, they were driven north towards the Faroe Islands as her sails were steadily ripped to pieces. Out of control and with poor visibility further hampering any attempts to estimate their position, the ship drove before the wind as the men huddled, helpless aboard their ship which was, by now increasingly waterlogged. For three weeks the ship was swept, out of control acorss the seas to the north and west of Shetland until, on March 2nd they spotted high cliffs only half a mile from their position. Attempts to steer her clear failed and she crashed onto the rocks at Crooks Ayre, Yell. The ship almost immediately broke in two and the stern section was carried out to sea and lost. The men aboard the bow section huddled in the forecastle which initially clung to the rocks but, with a rising tide, it finally refloated and was driven hard against the shoreline and broke up. Only Camphuijs survived, washed ashore naked and bleeding onto the jagged coastline. He managed to scramble up the steep shoreline and reach the safety nearby blacksmith.
Undoubtedly there would have been some unauthorised attempts to remove items from the wreck but over time the precise location was lost until attempts to locate and survey her began in the 1970’s under the leadership of Robert Stenuit. On 20th May 1971 the first cannon were discovered and the Lastdrager had been located. Attempts to locate the stern section of the wreck were unsuccessful. To this day it has not been located. Stenuit excavated and recorded the site recovering some 2700 finds although most of them were small fragments. Little of substance was discovered although around 900 coins were recovered, five iron guns were observed on the seabed but not removed and some navigational instruments and a few items of personal jewellery were also brought to the surface. Interestingly the divers discovered a number of pools of quicksilver (mercury) in the crevices around the wreck site. At the time, mercury was used in an number of manufacturing process including gilding and was a highly valued commodity.