H.M.S 'PROSELYTE' and its history

PHILIPSBURG - H.M.S.'PROSELYTE' a War Frigate of 32 pieces, began her illustrious career as a Dutch War Frigate of 36 pieces named the "JASON", built in Rotterdam The Netherlands in 1770.

Due to political strife, and bad treatment aboard, part of the "Jason" crew mutinied , locked up the captain and his followers below deck and set sail for Greenock in Scotland, where the ship was handed over to the Royal Navy in June 1796.

The English gave her a general overhaul, changing her from a 36 to a 32 piece Frigate, and renamed her HMS "PROSELYTE". She was sent to the Caribbean to patrol the waters.

In 1801 Sint Maarten was in British hands, and when the " Proselyte" was on her way from St. Kitts to Sint Maarten, she struck the "Man of War Shoal" in view of Philipsburg on September 2 of that year.

The Frigate, armed with 32 cannon sank, while the crew was saved.DSCN4373 2149

The Commander of the ship Henry Whitby was taken to Martinique, where he was put on trial aboard HMS "Magnamine" at Fort Royal Bay on November 7 1801.

He was found guilty of negligence, and reduced in rank for not heeding the warning about the danger of the reef.


The "Proselyte" today, lies on her starboard side in approximately 50 feet of water, just beyond the mouth of Great Bay at Philipsburg.

Numerous cannon, ballast bars, barrel hoops and anchors are scattered around the wreck on the ocean floor, heavily encrusted with coral formations.

The "Proselyte Reef" has become a popular dive site.


During the summer of 1994, the Sint Maarten National Heritage Foundation and Maritime Archaeology & Research in Colorado USA, co-sponsored an investigation, designed to survey, identify and map historical material at the "Proselyte" shipwreck site.

The report of this investigation may be consulted on request. The map, photographs of the underwater research and information on the ship is documented and part of the "Proselyte exhibition.


The Sint Maarten Museum has many artifacts of the HMS "PROSELYTE" on display. They include barrel hoops, coaks, musket balls, cannonballs, copper nails, rigging parts, pieces of wood, glass bottle fragments, uniform buttons metal and ceramics.

In 2002 we were able to obtain a model of the ship, made by Mr. Brud Ducelle thanks to a donation by the Dutch Representative in Philipsburg.

On January 2012 The Sint Maarten Museum received a donation of artifacts from Dive Adventures, one of the longest established scuba shops on St Maarten. Represented by Manager Vinny Agosta, Dive Adventures presented objects coming from the Proselyte Reef gathered over the last 15 years when there were no laws and regulations to prohibit the removal of artifacts.

Nowadays divers are only allowed to take are pictures of the wreck and nothing else! It is very important that residents and visitors alike realize that these artifacts make up St Maarten's interesting and diverse history.

The Man of War Shoal Marine Park, recently established by Minister Meyers, is an important part of that cultural heritage.

Every week there are groups of school children visiting the museum and learning about St Maarten's illustrious history.

Part of Dive Adventures initiative was to encourage other businesses and residents to donate generously to the museum with any artifacts they may have sitting in attics and garages.

Who knows what important pieces of history are hiding in plastic boxes under someone's desk! Dives to Proselyte and many of the surrounding reefs and wreck sites of St Maarten can be done daily with Dive Adventures, from the Simpson Bay Resort, formerly the Pelican Resort in Simpson Bay. Visit www.stmaarten-activities.com

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