Salvaging a 19th century steam-engine shipwreck turns out to be more trouble than its worth, as a group of farmers-turned-divers found out. The Vietnamese pair, who supplement their income by selling salvage recovered from the bottom of the Red River ran into trouble with the authorities when the local authorities declared the shipwreck an ancient artefact to be claimed under the museum.
Vietnam Net Bridge, 04 April 2009
Everyday for 20 years Ha Cong Ao and Hoang Dinh Dang have risked their lives diving to the bottom of the Red River in search of discarded valuable materials. When they discovered a sunken 19th century ship they thought theyâ€™d come up trumps but now theyâ€™re not so sure.
On the banks of the Red River in Khoai Chau district, Hung Yen province sits a recently salvaged boat that was built sometime in the 19th century. Now broken in two the boat was once 30m long and 5m wide. The bronze steam-engine and screw-propeller are intact, however, so there is enough evidence to suggest that this ship was a real beauty in its day.
But the divers, who discovered the boat, are now staring at the shipwreck and wondering if dredging up the past was such a good idea. At first, of course, they thought theyâ€™d struck gold. â€œPeople say we hit the jackpot but in fact we are sitting on a land-mine,â€ says 53-year old Ha Cong Ao. â€œWe emptied our own pockets and borrowed a lot of money to fish out the wreck. Now we donâ€™t know when we will be able to pay off our debts.â€