The problem with shipwrecks in Indonesia

Treasures from the Cirebon Shipwreck on Sale, Jakarta Globe 20120331

An interesting article giving an overview of the salvage of shipwrecks in Indonesia in an environment of corruption and legislation. The case of the Belitung shipwreck is also mentioned.

Treasures from the Cirebon Shipwreck on Sale, Jakarta Globe 20120331
Treasures from the Cirebon Shipwreck on Sale, Jakarta Globe 20120331

Indonesia’s Shipwrecks Mean Riches and Headaches
AP, via the Jakarta Globe, 31 May 2012

Mamat Evendi straps on his primitive breathing device — a garden hose attached to a compressor on the back of his wooden fishing boat. Pulling down his goggles, he splashes flippers-first into the crystal blue water.

A few minutes later he’s flashing a ‘thumbs up,’ pointing first to a massive, coral-encrusted anchor, then a bronze cannon and finally, peeking up from the sand, the buried deck of a 17th century European ship. Nearby are pieces of blue-and-white ceramics. A tiny perfume bottle. A sword handle. Broken wine flasks, one still sealed with a wooden cork.

The wreck is just 6 meters underwater, one of four pushed into view after a tsunami slammed into the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia just over a year ago. They are among possibly 10,000 vessels littering the ocean floor of what for more than a millennium has been a crossroads for world trade.

Full story here.

Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

2 thoughts on “The problem with shipwrecks in Indonesia”

  1. Hardimansyah, a local maritime official seems to be involved in the looting of the 17th Cent. vessel. “To be honest, I’m getting frustrated, too,” he says, noting he’s already given the best artifacts pulled from the coral and sand to military and political officials who stop by his office from time to time to see what’s been found.
    “It’s hard to say no if they ask.” Does that imply that the government itself is the driving force behind the looting? What if “military and political officials” do not get what they are asking for? Is that the reason why they prevent operators like Fred Dobberphul from working, while backing operations from which the best pieces disappear in dark (government)channels? Altogether this article is one of the most misleading pieces ever about this topic.

  2. Hardimansyah, a local maritime official seems to be involved in the looting of the 17th Cent. vessel. “To be honest, I’m getting frustrated, too,” he says, noting he’s already given the best artifacts pulled from the coral and sand to military and political officials who stop by his office from time to time to see what’s been found.
    “It’s hard to say no if they ask.” Does that imply that the government itself is the driving force behind the looting? What if “military and political officials” do not get what they are asking for? Is that the reason why they prevent operators like Fred Dobberphul from working, while backing operations from which the best pieces disappear in dark (government)channels? Altogether this article is one of the most misleading pieces ever about this topic.

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