An old sunken ship finally hoisted from the Yangtze estuary


A screenshot of the site for hoisting the former Yangtze River Estuary No. 2 Ship

After more than 150 years buried underwater in the mud of the Yangtze River estuary – and seven years of underwater archaeological research – a Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) sand-trading boat revealed its mysteries on Sunday at midnight.

Ancient Yangtze River Estuary Ship No. 2, a wooden sailing ship built around 1862-1875 during the reign of the Tongzhi Emperor, surfaced while being shrouded and hoisted by a box-shaped 8,800 ton arch supported by 22 giant arch girders after almost three hours of lifting operation.

The vessel will then be transported to Pier No. 1 of the former Shanghai Shipyard Site in Yangpu District by the rescue vessel Fen Li, entering a new stage of preservation of cultural relics and archaeological excavations.

It was buried in sludge 5.5 meters deep, and the area of ​​water where the ship sank is 8-10 meters deep.

The remains of the ship are approximately 38.1 meters long and 9.9 meters wide and it has 31 cabins based on current finds.

An old sunken ship finally hoisted from the Yangtze estuary

Ti Gong

A sonar image of the ship found buried underwater in the mud of the Yangtze River estuary.

The ship’s upper deck and main masts appear to be intact.

According to Zhai Yang, deputy director of the Shanghai Cultural Heritage Research and Protection Center, the vessel is likely a flat-bottomed sand vessel, widely used for water transport in Shanghai during the Ming Dynasties (1368-1644) and Qing.

In 2015, an underwater archaeological survey in the Hengsha area of ​​Chongming Island detected a sunken iron ship through sonar scanning technology.

The iron warship has been named the Yangtze River Estuary Ancient Ship No. 1. As archaeologists expanded the scope of the scan, a wooden vessel was found north of the warship and it was named the Yangtze River Estuary Ancient Ship No. 2.

Priceless archaeological treasures, including porcelain from the kilns of Jingdezhen, a world-famous porcelain capital in Jiangxi Province, were discovered in four cabins.

A large number of cultural relics such as Yixing zisha (purple clay) wares, Vietnam-made hookah cans, wooden buckets, ship masts, expedition building materials and iron anchors have been unearthed near the ship.

The bottom of a green enamel cup bears signs that it was made during the reign of the Tongzhi Emperor, providing important evidence of the ship’s history, experts said.

Between July and September last year, major finds including porcelain works from the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and a blue and white porcelain vase 60 centimeters high were discovered.

Yixing kiln ceramics were also discovered.

“There are still a lot of mysteries behind the ship, like its name, where it was built and what its destination was, which we hope to have answers to,” Zhai said earlier.

“We will solve them one by one – but it can take a long time.”

“When we first spotted the vessel, it was totally covered in mud with only one mast exposed,” he revealed.

“Underwater archaeological work has been like a blind touch given the water quality and low visibility of the estuary,” Zhai observed. “Even though we wore a dive torch with a strong light, we could hardly see anything.

“Archaeological work depends on advanced underwater scanning equipment.

“Because sunken ships are usually buried under sand, they are able to hold a piece of history well, and we travel back in time during archaeological work.”

The Yangtze River Estuary Ancient Ship No. 2 is another milestone in the history of Chinese underwater archeology after the Nanhai No. 1 freighter of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) .

Nanhai No. 1 is widely considered the largest and best-preserved ocean-going trading vessel of the Song Dynasty.

According to Fang Shizhong, director of both the Shanghai culture and tourism administration and the Shanghai cultural heritage administration.

“It is a precious cultural heritage with an important history and scientific and artistic value,” he said earlier.

The discovery of the ship provides important support for research on the “Maritime Silk Road” and testifies to Shanghai’s position as a world center of commerce and shipping in modern times and a milestone on the “Belt and Road”, Mr. Fang pointed out.

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