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Divers examine 19th century shipwreck

Update: August, 20/2011 - 07:57
Scrap or treasure: An inter-disciplinary team in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue has begun to survey a shipwreck believed to date back to the early 19th century. — File Photo.

Scrap or treasure: An inter-disciplinary team in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue has begun to survey a shipwreck believed to date back to the early 19th century. — File Photo.

THUA THIEN-HUE — An inter-disciplinary team from different agencies in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue has begun to survey a shipwreck believed to date back to the early 19th century.

The survey is conducted to assess the feasibility of salvaging the ship and help authorities make a decision.

The shipwreck is located two metres underwater and 100m off Xuan Thien Ha Beach in Phu Vang District's Vinh Xuan Commune, said Phan Tien Dung, director of the Thua Thien-Hue Department for Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Dung said the survey will last for ten days and will be carried out with the support of divers, workers and special equipment from Hue City.

Based on the survey results, provincial authorities will decide whether or not the ship should be lifted from the site, Dung told Viet Nam News.

The 60m long, 10m wide steam-powered ship was discovered some 60-70 years ago and has been visited many times since by antique collectors and scrap merchants. Most of the ship is currently buried under sand.

In early 2011, Nguyen Cong Tinh, owner of a scrap shop in Hue city, was granted permission from Phu Vang District's military command to exploit the shipwreck further.

However, on May 29 this year, the provincial People's Committee issued a decision to revoke the permission and suspend exploration of the ship, said Tran Van De, chairman of the Vinh Xuan Commune People's Committee.

Ngo Hoa, deputy chairman of Thua Thien-Hue People's Committee, said the provincial authority's decision was based on reports that there were antiques and old cannons on the ship that dated back to the early 19th century.

Tinh later submitted to the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism a list of things he has found on the ship, including a set of elephant leg bones, a cast-iron torpedo, two ancient coins from the King Minh Mang era (1791-1841) and some porcelain ware.

However, Vinh Xuan residents said scrap seekers have found other porcelain ware, a bronze pedestal for cannons, part of a steam engine and other metal equipment that have been sold or hidden in other places.

Researcher Ho Tan Phan said the ship was a big and modern one in the first half of the 19th century.

"It could be the ship that was presented by the French to the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945) during the reign of King Tu Duc (1847-83) as mentioned in history books," he said. — VNS

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