Eastern hemisphere wrecks & boatfinds
Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Pacific Ocean, Asia and Oceania
Arabs, Chinese, Polynesians and others have navigated the Indian and Pacific Oceans for
thousands of years.
- As-Sabiyah find, Kuwait. Located on land in 2002 by British archaeologist Robert Carter. The
find is only fragments of what seems to have been a boat. The fragments are covered with bitumen
(similar to tar, used for waterproofing even today by local boat builders) and reed (used for
early boats). It is carbon-14 dated to 5,511-5,324 B.C. If it's a boat, then it's the world's oldest,
except for logboats.
- Assarca Islands wreck,
Eritrea. Investigated 1995-97 by Ralph K Pedersen, INA. Dated to 4th-7th century AD. Contains plenty
of amphoras of Byzantine-Egyptian origin. Photo courtesy Ralph K Pedersen, INA.
- Quanzhou ship, Fujian
Province, China. In 1973/74 the remains of a large seagoing ship were found on land, on the site of
an ancient waterway. Of the c 35 m long ship, all parts below waterline were well preserved. The hull
had a deep V-shaped bottom. Coins date the ship to the Song dynasty ( 960-1279 AD). Ref: British
Museum Encyclopaedia of Underwater and Maritime Archaeology and IJNA 12.3 1983.
- Kublai Khan's fleet. In 1274 and 1281, storms wrecked the Mongol invasion fleets trying to attack
Japan, possibly killing more than
100,000 soldiers. Remains were found in 1981, now being investigated by Japanese archaeologists.
- Shinan wreck,
Korea. Sunk probably 1323 AD. Discovered on 20 m depth in 1975/76 and investigated. The hull remains
were buried in the bottom mud, the hold divided in 8 compartments separated by watertight bulkheads.
A large collection of Chinese ceramics was recovered, packed in the original wooden boxes and wrapped
in paper. Also, more than 7 million Chinese copper coins were found, weighing 28 tons! Ref: Peter
Throckmorton, The Sea Remembers (1987).
- Turiang Shipwreck, off Malaysia in the South
China Sea. Located by Sten Sjostrand on 43 m depth, Dated to c 1305-1370 AD, loaded with Chinese,
Thai (from Sukhotai) and Vietnamese ceramics. Some recovered objects are at the Muzium
Negara in Kuala Lumpur, the national museum of Malaysia.
- Chinese wreck, sunk
off the Philippines, estimatedly in 1414, discovered in 1993. Among the finds were more
than 4000 pieces of ceramics.
- Flor do Mar.
Portuguese ship sunk off Melaka, present Malaysia in 1511. Supposedly loaded with 60 tons of gold.
The wreck area is located on 37 m depth. But it seems to be under 15 m of sediment and all treasure
hunt has failed so far. Described by Robert F Marx in The Search for Sunken Treasure.
- Ko Si Chang 1 wreck, Gulf of Thailand north of Pattaya. Investigated on 35 m depth in
1982-83, plenty of hull timbers were preserved, as well as Chinese porcelain, identifying it as a
trading ship from c 1573-1620. Ref: Peter Throckmorton, The Sea Remembers (1987).
- Surat Thani ship, Thailand. Located
in 2002 on land 1.5 metres down in the Surat Thani mangrove swamp. The 15 m long and 3 m wide ship is
perfectly preserved. The wooden planks are sewn or tied together, no nails are used. According to the
Chiaia Museum the ship is at least 400 years old. Ref Thai News Agency, 2003.
- San Diego, 35
m long Spanish galleon. Sank in battle having rammed the Dutch ship Mauritius, off the Philippines in
1600. Found on 50-55 m depth in 1991 by a treasure-hunting and salvage company. Excavated by the team
of Franck Goddio. Artefacts are being conserved by the Underwater Archaeology Section, National
Museum of the Philippines, Manila. Ref National Geographic, July 1994 and Le San Diego
(Réunions des Musées Nationaux 1994).
- Nassau. Dutch VOC ship. Burnt and
sunk in 1606 in battle against the Portuguese in the Straits of Malacca. Located in 1993.
Investigated in 1995 in strong currents and bad visibility by Mensun Bound, Oxford University MARE.
- Trial. English East India Company ship wrecked off Western Australia
in 1622. The probable site was found in 1969. Very little remains.
Dutch VOC ship headed for Batavia (Djakarta), sunk off western Australia in 1629. Circa 300 survivors
made it to two waterless islands. A minor group sailed from there in a small boat to Batavia for
help. When the rescue team reached the remaining survivors after 3 months, most had died from thirst
or been killed by others. All in all, 116 people survived. The wreck was found in 1963, excavated
1972-76. Among the finds was one astrolabe. Parts of conserved
hull and a stone portico from the cargo are displayed in the Western
Australian Maritime Museum. A replica of the ship has been
Link. Ref IJNA 4.1 1975 & 9.1 1980.
(in Swedish: Forskning & Framsteg 2/80 and Dyk 4/95)
- Nuestra Señora de la Concepción. Spanish galleon
sunk off Saipan in 1638. Commercially salvaged in 1987. Among the finds were gold chains and
jewellery. Ref: Angus Konstam, Atlas versunkener Schiffe (Weltbild, Augsburg 1999) and
National Geographic, September 1990.
Vergulde Draeck. Dutch VOC ship sunk in 1656 on its way to Batavia (Djakarta), carrying
large quantities of piece-of-eight silver coins. Discovered in shallow water off Western Australia in
1963. First salvaged without documentation, finally investigated 1972-83 by Western Australia
Maritime Museum. The finds were mixed-up, hull remains badly broken, and the shipwreck must have been
violent. Among the finds were elephant tusks and an astrolabe. Ref: IJNA 2.2 1973.
- Avondster, Dutch VOC ship. In 1659
she was anchored at the coast of Sri Lanka, but the anchor slipped, she hit the rocks
and sank. The skipper and the first mate were convicted, and ordered to pay
for the losses. The wreck is on 5 m depth and being investigated since 1993. The lower
part of the hull is intact and preserved under the bottom sediment. Among the finds
are beautiful ceramics.
- Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Saragoza y
Santiago. Spanish ship sunk in 1690 at the southern reef of Cocos Island, south of Guam.
Loaded with silver and gold. Ballast stones and many loose artefacts of the wreck have been located,
but not the treasure.
- The Vung Tau wreck,
Vietnam. Chinese ship sunk appr 1690. Chinese porcelain was recovered and sold at Christie's in 1992.
- Santo António de Tanna.
42 gun Portuguese frigate built in 1681 in Goa and sunk off Kenya in 1697. Located on 13-20 m depth
in the 1960s and later excavated by the INA. More than 15,000 artefacts were recovered, including a
beautiful carved wooden angel and much more. Photo of gun courtesy INA. Ref: IJNA 6.4 1977, 7.4 1978, 8.4 1979, 10.2
Dutch VOC ship, 54 m long and carrying 40 guns. Sunk off western Australia in 1712. Lost without
trace and no survivors among the 286 crewmembers. The wrecksite has been investigated by Dr Philip
Playford, chief diver Geoff Kimpton and others. To reach the site, below exposed rocks, a cable lift
was constructed. A similar cable system was later used on San Pedro de
Alcantara. Ref: British Museum Encyclopaedia of Underwater and Maritime Archaeology.
- Zeewijk. Dutch VOC ship, 40 m long, sunk off western Australia in
1727. The survivors made it to a nearby island with freshwater, built a new ship, sailed to Batava,
arriving there 10 months after the shipwreck. Discovered in 1968, excavated in 1972 and 1976. Ref
IJNA 6.3 1977
English East India Company ship, sunk off Mozambique in 1738. Located in 1987, investigated by the
French Department of Marine Archaeological Research (DRASM).
- Geldermalsen. Dutch VOC ship going from Nanking in China to Batavia, sunk in the south
China Sea in 1752, loaded with more than 200,000 pieces of porcelain and 147 gold bars. Discovered in
1985. Ming porcelain was salvaged and sold at Christie's. Ref: B. M. Encyclopaedia of Underwater
and Maritime Archaeology.
- Sadana Island shipwreck, Egypt. Wreck from late 18th
century, possibly an Arab merchant ship, sunken against a coral reef. The ship was loaded with
earthenware water jugs, liquor and wine bottles, coffee, Indian pepper and coconuts, spices and
aromatic resin – all characteristic of a profitable northern Red Sea trade in both luxuries and
everyday goods. Located on 30-45 m depth, investigated 1995-1998 by Cheryl Ward, INA.
Captain. East India Company ship, going home from Canton loaded with silk, tea and porcelain,
but sank in the Philippines in 1773. Investigated by Franck Goddio.
- Lapérouse wrecks. French scientific expedition ships belonging to
Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse, lost without trace in the Pacific in 1788.
A 2005 expedition tries to locate the wreck, around the island Vanikoro. The
wreck of one of the ships, the Boussole, was located in 1964 near the
- HMS Bounty. British Navy
ship, originally a coal carrier, commanded by Captain Bligh, but later sunk by mutineers off Pitcairn
in 1790. Ref: Archaeology May/June 1999.
- HMS Pandora. This British warship arrested the mutineers
from the Bounty, but sank in 1791 on 33 m depth off Australia's north-eastern corner. The hull parts
below the waterline are preserved in the bottom sand.
- HMS Sirius. British 5th rate
frigate, 45 m long. Built in 1797 and wrecked in 1810 off Mauritius. Discovered in 1964 in the
bottom-mud on 6-24 m depth. The well-preserved remains were damaged by salvors using dynamite in
1968. Finally investigated by Yann von Arnim. The bow is still deeply embedded under mud. Ref:
AIMA Bulletin 22 1998.
- Buffalo. Loaded with wood and soldiers. In 1840 she was off North Island, New Zeeland. All
troops and passengers were saved but the ship sank. In 1960 a tidal wave washed the wreck back to the
surface. Some fittings were recovered. Ref: Kenneth Hudson, The Book of Shipwrecks (Macmillan
- James Matthews. This was originally a Portuguese slave trader named Don Francisco. It was
captured and renamed. Sunk in 1841 off Western Australia. Located in 1973, excavated in 1974, hull
parts found well preserved. Ref: B. M. Encyclopaedia of Underwater and Maritime Archaeology.
- SS Xantho.
Iron-hull steamship built as a paddle steamer in 1848. Later rebuilt for propeller. Sunk in Australia
in 1872. The engine is conserved at the Western Australia Maritime Museum.
- Queen of Nations. Wooden clipper
built in Aberdeen in 1861. After 3 months travel from London, she wrecked off the Australian coast in 1881.
The wreck is located on 3-5 m depth, 70 m from the shore.
- Wrecks off Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. If you visit the dive centre in Hikkaduwa, they offer
diving on at least two local wrecks. Perhaps not archaeologically significant but nice recreational
diving. One is a large and rather intact iron hull sailing ship on 12 m depth.
- Yongala. Passenger
ship sunk in 1911 off Queensland, Australia. The rather well-preserved wreck is popular among
recreational divers. Recreational dives are organised from Townsville, Queensland.
- Umbria. Beautiful 155 m long Italian
liner scuttled off Port Sudan in 1940. Nowdays she is a popular dive site.
- Thistlegorm. British transport
ship going from Glasgow to Alexandria, 125 m long and loaded with war supplies. To avoid German
attacks she rounded Africa. Finally sunk in the Red Sea by German bombers in 1941. Found in 1956 on
30 m depth by J-Y Cousteau. Photo of vehicles in the hold by
- USS Arizona. US battleship built in 1915, 185 m
long, sunk by the Japanese in 1941 at Pearl Harbor. The explosion killed more
than 1117 men. The wreck is
left in place on shallow water as a grave and memorial. Described in
National Geographic, June 2001.
- USS Yorktown. Aircraft
carrier sunk off Midway in 1942. Found intact in 1998 on 5000 m depth by Dr Robert Ballard.
- I 124. Japanese submarine sunk off Darwin,
Australia, in 1942. Located in 1972 on 50 m depth.
- The Yamashita gold transport.
Allegedly a Japanese gold transport sank off the Philippines towards the end of WWII. Fortunately
such a recent wreck has limited archaeological importance. So if any treasure hunters manage to
salvage gold from this one, I say congratulations.
- USAT Liberty, Tulamben,
Bali. No archaeological significance but this WWII Liberty class ship is popular for recreational
diving. The wreck starts at the shore and goes till the max depth 27 m. In 1998 guided dives were
about USD 25 including all gear. But snorkelling is possible too. This must be one of the world's
easiest wreck dives, lying next to the beach. Local guest houses at the beach offered single rooms at
USD 4 per night.
- Prinz Eugen. German heavy cruiser built in 1938, 206 m long and a beauty in its day.
Scuttled near the Bikini Islands in 1946. The large hull is laying upside down, partly above surface.
No great historical or archaeological value in such a recent ship.
Mr Bernd Brandes in Germany is actually campaigning to raise it, restore it, and use it to
"promote world peace", according to his web page. But Why? Instead of raising a rusty hulk, we might
preserve historic ships that still are floating.
Photos © Sten Sjostrand, Western Australian Maritime Museum, Queensland
Museum and Göran Nilsson. Page rev