Malaysia firms plunder sunken wrecks for rare steel used to make sensitive medical, scientific equipment

via The Straits Times, 27 Feb 2018: New research on the illegal plunder of shipwrecks in Southeast Asian waters highlight the role of Malaysian firms

SE Asia News -PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Some Malaysian salvage firms are working with an international syndicate to plunder sunken wartime wrecks in search for rare and highly-sought low-background steel, used in sensitive medical and scientific equipment.. Read more at straitstimes.com.

Source: Malaysia firms plunder sunken wrecks for rare steel used to make sensitive medical, scientific equipment, SE Asia News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

Shipwreck found in 2014 could be HMS Tamar: preliminary report

Find in Hong Kong waters thought to be scuttled British ship from World War II.


A large metal object that was found in 2014 in the seabed near the Wan Chai coastline, along with other stuff that was discovered later, is very likely the wreck of HMS Tamar, a famous British troop carrier from World War II, a preliminary archaeological assessment report says.  According to a 41-page report that was…

Source: Shipwreck found in 2014 could be HMS Tamar: preliminary report

14,000 artefacts recovered from Nanhai No. 1

Chinese archaeologists report that over 14,00 artefacts have so far been recovered from the Nanhai No. 1, a Song Dynasty era ship that was recovered from the South China Sea.

Hoard of relics salvaged from ancient Chinese ship
Business Standard, 10 January 2016

Ancient Chinese ship yields hoards of relics
The Hindu, 10 January 2016

China: 14,000 gold, silver and copper relics recovered from 800-year-old shipwreck
International Business Times, 11 January 2016

14,000 relics recovered from ancient Chinese ship
CNTV.cn, 12 January 2016

More than 14,000 relics have been retrieved from an ancient cargo ship after it was salvaged from a depth of 30 metres below the surface of the South China Sea in late 2007, Chinese archaeologists said on Saturday.

Most of the relics are porcelain products, such as pots, bottles, bowls and plates produced by then famous kilns in places now known as Jiangxi, Fujian and Zhejiang, said Liu Chengji, deputy head of the Guangdong Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Xinhua reported.

As of January 5, archaeologists have also excavated hundreds of gold, silver and copper relics and about 17,000 copper coins.

Full story here.

Remains of watercraft reported from Kedah archaeological site

Archaeologists in Malaysia working at the Sungei Batu archaeological site have reportedly discovered the remains of several shipwrecks, but funds are lacking to investigate further. The finds are consistent with previous work at the site which has uncovered the presence of jetties and the former river in the area.

Sungei Batu Archaeological Site
Sungei Batu Archaeological Site

Ancient Ships Discovered At Sungai Batu Archaeological Site
Bernama, 31 August 2015

Ancient shipwrecks find may force a rewrite of SEA history
The Star, 02 September 2015

Using ground penetrating radar, archaelogists have discovered outlines of more than five ships between 5m and 10m underground at the Sungai Batu Archaelogical Site, near Semeling, about 20km from here.

“This was once an ancient river with a width of about 100m and a depth of 30m. Now it is a swampy wetland,” said archaelogical team member Azman Abdullah.

Signs of the first shipwreck was unearthed in 2011 not far from the ruins of a jetty made of flattish square bricks.

“We dug until we found a 2m-long mast head lying horizontally. The wood had softened but it was still miraculously well preserved.

“We were excited and dug through the wet mud every day,” said Azman, 54. To the team’s horror, the excavation pit collapsed in 2012 after they reached a depth of 5m.

Fulls stories here and here.

A visit to the Phanom Surin Shipwreck site, Samut Sakorn Province

Over the weekend some friends and I went to Samu Sakorn Province, about an hour south of Bangkok, to visit the Phanom Surin Shipwreck site where an exciting archaeological excavation is going on – the unearthing of a 9th century Arab-style sewn ship.

Phanom Surin Shipwreck site in Thailand's Samut Sakorn Province.
Phanom Surin Shipwreck site in Thailand’s Samut Sakorn Province.

Some of you will know that the Belitung Shipwreck holds the title as the oldest shipwreck found in Southeast Asia – and this, the Phanom Surin wreck, is of the same age. It was discovered in 2013, by the landowner. This area is used for shrimp farming, and the owner had discovered at large, 17-metre kelson while digging on his land. Very fortunately, the owner contacted the authorities, which finally has led to the Thai Fine Arts Department conducting the slow process of unearthing and conserving the remains. The owners remain supporting to this day (the wreck is actually named after the owner), donating the land to to the authorities and now there is a long term plan to carefully investigate the wreck and its remains, as well as to set up a museum on site.

The 17m kelson, the wooden beam running at the bottom of the ship reinforcing the keel, is kept submerged in water to preserve it.The 17m kelson, the wooden beam running at the bottom of the ship reinforcing the keel, is kept submerged in water to preserve it.
The 17m kelson, the wooden beam running at the bottom of the ship reinforcing the keel, is kept submerged in water to preserve it.

The landscape has obviously changed a fair bit, as we are now already 8km inland, but a thousand years ago the shores were up to this point, which explains the presence of the shipwreck. During the first season of excavation last year, the kelson was retrieved and the wreck was partially excavated, revealing several interesting pieces such as torpedo jars (amphoras). Preliminary evaluations suggest origins of the ceramics from India and the Middle East, as well as China.

The site of the main shipwreck remains.
The site of the main shipwreck remains.
A view of the hull, just peeking out of the water. The block in the foreground is what is thought to be the bow. and you can see the curvature of the hull on the left.
A view of the hull, just peeking out of the water. The block in the foreground is what is thought to be the bow. and you can see the curvature of the hull on the left.

Like the Belitung Shipwreck, the Phanom Surin wreck appears to have been stitched together as well, which suggests that it was an Arab-style ship. For a look at how a reconstructed Arab ship looks like, check out my earlier post on the Jewel of Muscat, which was based on the Belitung ship.

Detail of the stitching on the hull structure.
Detail of the stitching on the hull structure.

The current investigation is focused on the other end of the ship. Since the bow has been found, the team is trying to determine the location of the stern. As you can see, the work conditions are quite challenging – you have to be waist deep in mud all the time. Here archaeologists are examining what is thought to be the roof structure of the helm or cabin.

Archaeologists investigating a wooden structure, discovered during their search for the ship's stern.
Archaeologists investigating a wooden structure, discovered during their search for the ship’s stern.

On the shed the houses the kelson, a small shrine has been set up to the local spirits, a common sight in Southeast Asia, especially in archaeological sites. I think someone really did win the lottery, which is why the owners did not mind donating the land for archaeological research. Reminds me that I need to get a ticket today, heh heh.

The find turned out to be good luck, and has become a spirit shrine where people would come to pray for luck, especially with the lottery!
The find turned out to be good luck, and has become a spirit shrine where people would come to pray for luck, especially with the lottery!

Going out to see this site also gave me a chance to play with a new toy: the Parrot Bebop, a quadcopter with an attached camera that I hope to use for later archaeological investigations. If you remember, I experimented with remote controlled helicopters ages ago for aerial photography with no success (I developed the pole camera instead), but now the technology has finally caught up with my requirements. Watch this space for more aerial videos of archaeological sites!

This is a huge discovery, and the possibility of a wreck as old, or even older than the Belitung Wreck (with less controversial provenance) is very exciting. Expect to hear more about this site in the future. In the meantime, you can read about the wreck in the Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum newsletter, in this piece that was written last year.

WWII Musashi wreck found in Philippines

One of the most famous World War II warships, the Musashi, has been discovered in Philippine waters. The person who announced the discovery is quite notable too – Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft.

Remains of the catapult ramp from the Musashi. Source: Sydney Morning Herald 20150403
Remains of the catapult ramp from the Musashi. Source: Sydney Morning Herald 20150403

WWII Japanese ship Musashi said to be found in Philippines
Sydney Morning Herald, 04 March 2015

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen says he has found one of Japan’s biggest and most famous battleships on a Philippine seabed, 70 years after American forces sank it during World War II.

Excited historians likened the discovery, if verified, to finding the Titanic, as they hailed the American billionaire for his high-tech mission that apparently succeeded after so many failed search attempts by others.

Mr Allen posted photos and video online of parts of what he said was the battleship Musashi, found by his M/Y Octopus exploration vessel one kilometre deep on the floor of the Sibuyan Sea.

Full story here.

Indonesian shipwreck trove to be auctioned

The contents of a shipwreck found in the waters of the Riau Islands will be split between museums in Indonesia and sold to the domestic market. This might be an interesting case to follow as an alternative way to balance the illicit salvage of underwater cultural properties against state intervention and public partnership. The finds from the ship date to the Ming Dynasty, but I am unable to determine much from the archaeology of the ship as the article is in Bahasa Indonesia. (Thanks to Shu from the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre for the heads up).

Ming Dynasty jarlet from a shipwreck in the Riau Islands. Source: Detik 20150216
Ming Dynasty jarlet from a shipwreck in the Riau Islands. Source: Detik 20150216

Harta Karun Kapal Dinasti Ming di Batam akan Dilelang
Detik.com, 16 February 2015

Pemerintah akan mengangkat kapal karam dari Dinasti Ming bermuatan aneka harta di Perairan Bintan, Batam, Kepulauan Riau. Bagaimana nasib harta karunnya nanti?

Kasubid Pendayagunaan Sumber Daya Kelautan KP3K Kementerian Kelautan dan Perikanan (KKP), Rusman Hariyanto mengatakan, usai kapal diangkat proses selanjutnya adalah pengumpulan Benda Muat Kapal Tenggelam (BMKT) dan ditempatkan sementara di salah satu gudang penyimpanan di Bintan.

Beberapa BMKT akan dipilih dan dibagikan ke beberapa museum sebagai sumber pengetahuan sejarah. Setelah itu, BMKT yang tersisa akan dilelang di pasar dalam negeri.

Full story here.

Ceramics found in shores off Quang Ngai Province in Vietnam

A number of ceramics and stone artefacts have been discovered by divers in Ly Son at Quang Ngai Province. I’m sure more information about this will be announced at next week’s underwater archaeology conference.

Divers in Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam Net 20141003
Divers in Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam Net 20141003

Vestiges of two ancient shipwrecks discovered in Ly Son
Vietnam Net, 03 October 2014

Ancient ceramics found at sea
Viet Nam News, 08 October 2014
Continue reading “Ceramics found in shores off Quang Ngai Province in Vietnam”

US shipwreck identified in the Java Sea

The US navy confirms the identity of the USS Houston at the bottom of the Java Sea, sunk during World War II.

USS Houston. Source: US Navy, via BBC 20140819
USS Houston. Source: US Navy, via BBC 20140819

US Navy: USS Houston wreck found in Java Sea
BBC News, 19 August 2014
Continue reading “US shipwreck identified in the Java Sea”