In October 1771, a small Dutch ship is passing through the Finnish archipelago on its way to St. Petersburg. Its hold is filled with objects of art and exclusive goods, including those belonging to Empress Catherine the Great. On the island of Jurmo, the ship runs aground and sinks. Much of the valuable cargo likely remains in the wreck.
Catherine the Great was passionate about art and in 1764 founded the Hermitage, today one of the world’s foremost art museums. She continuously bought art, and by July 1771 her agents in the Netherlands had hauled in a large collection of paintings at an auction in Amsterdam. The art and a variety of other goods were loaded onto the small two-masted ship Vrouw Maria for transport to St. Petersburg. The nine-man ship left Amsterdam on 5 September 1771.
On 3 October, the ship was approaching the Finnish coast. But a gale storm breaks out and Vrouw Maria gets into major trouble. The ship is driven ashore and eventually strikes an underwater rock near the island of Jurmo.
Despite assistance from nearby archipelago farmers, the ship cannot be rescued. However, parts of the cargo can be salvaged before Vrouw Maria sinks, settling at a depth of more than 40 metres.
In 1999, a group of recreational divers located the remains of an excellently preserved ship off Jurmo. In time, they could claim that it was almost certainly Vrouw Maria.
Today Vrouw Maria stands on the seabed with its hull nearly intact. Archaeologists have discovered many different kinds of luxury goods, but the valuable art was not found.