19th Century Shipwreck found off Borneo

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19th Century Shipwreck found off Borneo

May 03, 2011 - 10:21
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A ship that sank more than 150 years ago in Borneo waters after visiting Singapore has been found by two Australians.

In 1842, the Viscount Melbourne sailed from India en route to China and docked in Singapore to pick up supplies and passengers. It left with more than 70 people on board. Three days after it left Singapore, the vessel was hit by a squall. It was left stranded on a coral reef. The ship had to be abandoned as the cotton bales it carried would expand when wet.

Viscount Melbourne ca 1841 William John Huggins (artist & publisher) Charles Rosenberg (engraver)

Part-time marine archaeologists Hans and Roz Berekoven - who are married to each other - said their find was unlikely to yield any treasures as the ship had been a British cargo vessel, but it could add to knowledge of trade then, the Jakarta Globe reports

Newspapers in the region reported on its loss at the time but interest faded and the wreck was abandoned to its fate.

Then in 1950, The Straits Times published a series of articles on the survivors' struggle to reach Borneo. The series, titled 'A perilous sea voyage', gave the Berekovens the key to finding the wreck.

The couple had seen vague references to the wreck and its survivors while researching another project An Internet search led to excerpts of The Straits Times articles, which in turn led them to the National Library in Singapore, where the full articles were kept.

'We spent five days in the archives working out the route the survivors took,' Mr Berekoven said. 'The diarist kept an incredibly detailed log.' Tracing the route backwards, they were able to find the wreck within 25 minutes of dropping anchor.

No gold, just cutlery and a few bottles of really well-aged wine.

—Hans Berekoven

That was in April last year. Since then, the Berekovens have revisited the wreck several more times, each time bringing up small artifacts such as spoons and bottles of preserved fruit.

The bad weather that had befallen the ship remains to this day, preventing more frequent visits, the couple said.

The depth of the wreck at 40m underwater and the limitations of their equipment mean they can spend only nine minutes at a time on the ship before they have to resurface.

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