Anchor & chest found at Chinese shipwreck site

Interior of No 1 shipwreck (Xinhua)
Interior of No 1 shipwreck (Xinhua)

Chinese archaeologists have made further finds on one of the two 500-year-old shipwrecks laden with Ming dynasty ceramics discovered recently around 1.5km deep in the South China Sea.

An iron anchor and what appears to be a timber chest have now been discovered, lying about 50m apart south-west of what has been dubbed No 1 shipwreck.

The metre-long anchor is partly buried in sediment, but its flukes are exposed as well as a 20cm-diameter ring at the top of the 10-15cm-diameter cylindrical shank. It has yet to be determined whether the anchor is from No 1 shipwreck. 

The wooden box is also partly buried, and its contents have yet to be investigated.

Most of the 100,000 ceramic artefacts are on the early 16th-century No 1 shipwreck, piled up to 3m deep above the mostly buried vessel, which lies some 20km away from No 2 shipwreck off Hainan island. The discoveries were announced on 21 May by archaeologists from China’s National Cultural Heritage Administration (NCHA), as reported on Divernet.

The crewed submersible Shenhai Yongshi is launched from the research ship Tansuo-1 on 26 May. An anchor has now been found at the wreck site  (Xinhua:Pu Xiaoxu)
Crewed submersible Shenhai Yongshi is launched from the research ship Tansuo-1 on 26 May (Xinhua / Pu Xiaoxu)

The research is being conducted by means of manned submersible dives carried out by a team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which originally found the wrecks last October, the NCHA’s National Centre for Archaeology and the Museum of the South China Sea.

No 1 shipwreck, which lies scattered over an area of around 10,000sq m, has been dated to the time of Emperor Zhengde (1506-21). 

Norwegian wreck on camera

In another intriguing deep-wreck update, researchers have captured a tantalisingly brief video clip from the 410m-deep bed of Norway’s deepest lake, Mjøsa, revealing details of what is thought could be the country's oldest shipwreck.

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) is investigating the site, which was found last year by a sonar-scanning AUV searching for hundreds of tonnes of live ordnance dumped in the lake by a factory from the 1940s to the ‘70s. Named Storfjorden I (Big Fjord 1), the wreck discovery was reported on Divernet.

Video from the Lake Mjøsa wreck (NTNU)

From this month ROVs are being deployed to explore the clinker-built wreck, which could date back as far as the 14th century and appears to have been built in the Viking style.

Ten metres long with a 2.5m beam, it has the overlapping wooden planks that characterise clinker-built boats. The extent to which the planks have loosened as their nails rust will be one indicator of how long the vessel has been submerged.

Norwegian wood: Sonar image from an AUV showing the wooden frame of a clinker-built mediaeval vessel (FFI / NTNU)
Sonar image from an AUV showing the wooden frame of a clinker-built mediaeval vessel (FFI / NTNU)

The researchers have generated a 3D model of the boat through sonar scanning, revealing the stempost at the bow and transom at stern, with the latter probably acting as rudder.

The rudder cannot be made out in the brief video, but the lack of visible rowlocks suggest that the vessel relied on sail rather than oars. However, it has yet to be proven conclusively that the boat is older than the mid-19th century.

Also on Divernet: Divers put Singapore on wreck mapDivers reveal 1760s Red Sea wreckThe secrets of the Sveti Pavao, Atlanta Wreck Identified In Cold Lake SuperiorDivers Find WW2 Bomber In Newfoundland Lake

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