800-year-old ship on ‘Marine Silk Road’ to be recovered

December 21st, 2007 - 5:50 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, Dec.21 (ANI): A Chinese salvage team is getting ready to recover the wreckage of an ancient merchant ship loaded with exquisite porcelain from the South China Sea on Saturday.
“If the weather is cooperative, the boat, which has been in the sea for about 800 years, will see the light of day again two days later,” said Wu Jiancheng, the head of the excavation project.
According to Wu, the excavation is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and the ship will be hoisted out of water in two hours.
The ship dates back to the early Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) and is 30.4 meters long and 9.8 meters wide, the China Daily reports.
It was the first ancient vessel discovered on the “Marine Silk Road” of the South China Sea. It was named Nanhai No. 1, meaning “South China Sea No.1.”
Wu said, Nanhai No. 1 left port in southern China to trade with foreign countries and sank probably due to stormy waves. It was quickly buried by silt. It was estimated there were probably 60,000 to 80,000 relics on board.
To better protect the precious relics and gain valuable information, archaeologists launched an unprecedented operation in early May to raise the wreck and the surrounding silt in a huge steel basket.
According to the plan, a crane would first put the basket onto a barge. Tow boats would then pull the barge to a temporary port on Sunday where the basket would be sent to a specially-built museum.
In order to avoid damage to the relics caused by a change of environment and pressure, the ancient ship would be put in a huge glass pool. There, the water temperature, pressure and other environmental conditions would be the same as the seabed where the ship lay.
The pool, named “Crystal Palace” is 64 meters long, 40 meters wide and 23 meters high. It contains seawater and is about 12 meters in depth.
“It will be sealed after the ship and the silt are put in,” said Feng Shaowen, the head of the cultural bureau of Yangjiang City, Guangdong Province.
Feng said visitors would be able watch the on-going excavation of the ship through windows on two sides of the pool.
As early as 2,000 years ago, ancient Chinese traders began taking china, silk and cloth textiles and other commodities to foreign countries along the trading route. It started from ports at today’s Guangdong and Fujian provinces to countries in south east Asia, Africa and Europe.
Nanhai No.1, accidentally found in 1987, was located some 20 sea miles west of Hailing Island of Yangjiang City in South China’s Guangdong Province, in more than 20 meters of water.
Green glazed porcelain plates, tin pots, shadowy blue porcelains and other rare antiques have all been found during the initial exploration of the ship.
Guangdong has earmarked 150 million yuan (20.3 million dollars) to build a “Marine Silk Road Museum” to preserve the salvaged ancient ship.
Unlike the traditional practice of excavating relics on sunken ships first and then salvaging the vessel, no more relic excavations would be made until the boat “gets used to its new home,” said Wu.
It is believed that a successful salvage would offer important material evidence for the study of China’s history in seafaring, shipbuilding and ceramics manufacture. (ANI)

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