- 2004/07/20 200-year-old porcelain salvaged from shipwreck

Porcelain believed to be more than 200 years old has been salvaged from a shipwreck about two nautical miles off the coast of Limbungan here.
Dating back to the 1800s, they are believed to be shards of two vases from China and Vietnam.

Royal Malaysian Navy divers salvaged the items, which were detected through a sonar scan earlier this month.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said initial investigations showed the vessel could have been a Chinese ship which sank during Malaccaís heyday as a trading port.

He added that the ship was originally believed to be Portuguese or Dutch, as historical accounts showed most shipwrecks in the area were of vessels from the two countries.

"However, the porcelain pieces that have been recovered and the size of the ship in the scan, estimated to be about 200 metres long, indicate that it was most likely a Chinese ship," he said.

The State Government has embarked on a search and salvage mission of 11 merchant and warships that sunk in the Straits of Malacca about 500 years ago.

The locations of five ships in the vicinity have been identified. They are the Middleburg, which sank on Aug 16, 1606; the Wieringen (June 2, 1636), the Franeker (Jan 18, 1642), the Bambeek (Jan 12, 1702), and the Overduin (June 27, 1784).

They are located in Tanjung Tuan, Tanjung Kling, Tanjung Pinang, Pulau Udan and Permatang Rumput, respectively.

"We hope to find all the other locations by the end of this month, and start salvage operations by August.

"We expect the entire operation to be completed in two to three monthsí time," Mohd Ali said after visiting the site where the porcelain items were found today.

He was accompanied on a Maritime Department boat by State Tourism, Culture and Heritage committee chairman Datuk Wira Amid Nordin, Malacca Museums Board general manager Dr Badariyah Salleh, and a Navy officer, Lieutenant Commander Zaharuddin Maideen.

Mohd Ali said 12 navy divers were involved in the search and salvage operation, which is estimated to cost the State Government about RM171,000.

"We believe there are precious historical relics to be found in these sunken ships, including armaments, porcelain, gold shillings and the like," he added.

Asked if the vicinity of the sunken ships would be gazetted to deter treasure-hunters, he said it was not necessary to do so yet.

"We think the security provided by the navy is sufficient for the moment. However, we will consider it if the situation warrants it," he said.

The salvaged items would belong to the Federal Government, but Mohd Ali said it was hoped that the State Government would be given the honour of exhibiting the items in the State Museum.

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