Friday, July 20 2018


Cape lures divers for hidden treasure

Update: December, 25/2012 - 18:41


Happy land: Fishing boats (above) and a landscape of Ba Lang An Cape. — VNS Photos
by Nguyen Huy

Ba Lang An Cape in the central province of Quang Ngai is an important location on the Vietnamese map, as it is the point on the mainland closest to the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelago of Viet Nam. Many generations of Vietnamese fishermen have made their living from the waters around the cape.

It's 135 sea miles from Ba Lang An Cape to the Paracels, according to researcher Le Hong Khanh.

"The name of the cape is literally translated as ‘three An villages'. The villages in question are An Hai, An Vinh and An Ky, whose inhabitants exploited and developed the cape," said Khanh.

From the end of the 16th century and the early 17th century, the Nguyen royal court recruited men from the villages to fish in the waters around the cape and others to defend the archipelago. Before journeying out to sea, they would gather at the Paracel Temple on the mainland to pray for peace and safety. Legend says that a whale bone was worshipped as people believed that whales often helped people survive from storms and accidents. When the temple was later destroyed, the bone was salvaged and taken to be worshipped in another temple.

Other villagers also worked as divers, hunting treasure from wrecked ships to earn for living. This tradition continues to this day, with diving teams each taking a boat and searching for antiquities in neighbouring waters such as Cu Lao Cham and Hoi An, said diver Vo Van Han, 42.

"Once in the 1990s, when I dived to catch holothurian (a sea cucumber), I found a wrecked ship near Hoi An full of Chu Dau pottery from the northern province of Hai Duong," he said. "Hoi An used to be a busy port so many ships from different regions came there to exchange goods."

"After several trips, I had a collection of nearly 3,000 items including dishes, bowls and jars, but it is not an outstanding number as know many divers who own even more significant treasures."


Paradise on earth: Sunrise over Ba Lang An Cape, the point on the mainland closest to the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelago

Archaeologists have surveyed and excavated widely in the region and made important discoveries, with ones of particular note being made in 1978 and 2002. They found relics of the Sa Huynh culture (which flourished from 1000 BC in central and southern Viet Nam) including antiquities dating up to 3,000 years old. They also uncovered evidence of an extensive trade network between Viet Nam, China, Thailand and Philippines.

"The cape was and remains an important and strategic location for trading as it's close to the crowded Sa Ky sea port and the Paracel archipelago," Khanh said. "The region needs to be researched and excavated deeper."

Formed by basalt, laterite and mineral rocks, the Ba Lang An region contains unique geological characters and a beautiful landscape. The cape itself was shaped by sediments of rock and lava. Archaeologists have suggested building a geo-park linking the cape to other significant geological locations, such as the dish-shaped rock cliffs of Phu Yen and the basalt pillars by the Virgin Waterfall in the Central Highlands. — VNS

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