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A transport ship from several hundred years ago was discovered in the Vistula River

Archaeologists have discovered the wreck of a large transport ship from several hundred years ago in the Vistula River near Łomianki Dolne, north of Warsaw. According to the finders, it is most likely a boat, i.e. a vessel which could have carried up to 100 tonnes of goods. Scientists have been exploring the bottom of
Published: January 20, 2020 - 12:15
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 19:09
A transport ship from several hundred years ago was discovered in the Vistula River

Archaeologists have discovered the wreck of a large transport ship from several hundred years ago in the Vistula River near Łomianki Dolne, north of Warsaw. According to the finders, it is most likely a boat, i.e. a vessel which could have carried up to 100 tonnes of goods. Scientists have been exploring the bottom of the Vistula River for more than ten kilometres – from the Żerań Canal in Warsaw to Jabłonna.

Among the newly discovered wrecks was a well-preserved, large wooden transport ship. “It is most likely a boat, which is a type of transport ship that was used from the 14th to the 18th century,” – believes the project leader, underwater archaeologist Artur Brzóska from the Association of Tomorrow’s Archaeologists. The wreck is 37 metres long and 6 metres wide.

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Research on the Vistula is hampered by the lack of water transparency. “When we dive we can see at a distance of 10-20 cm at most. Searching is not facilitated by the rapid current of the river,” Brzóska stresses. That is why the researchers did not manage to find any objects connected with the ship – for example, the goods it carried.

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Relics of a World War II bridge, photo P. Prejs

“Anyway, I don’t think we can count on much. In my opinion, the boat probably carried grain to Gdańsk. Such goods had no right to survive,” stresses the project leader.

Boat wrecks are a very rare find. The best preserved vessel of this type in Poland was excavated in 2018 in Czersk, from where it was sent in its entirety for conservation to Rybno to the Storage and Study Centre of the State Archaeological Museum in Warsaw.

The second unknown wreck during the latest research in the Warsaw area was found at the level of Buraków. Brzóska believes that it is most probably a ferry from the end of the 19th or the first half of the 20th century. This is evidenced by the guides located on the side of the vessel – probably for ropes.

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Diver at the site of a boat wreck, photo A. Szerszeń

So far only two wrecks have been known in this section of the river – one dating from the 16th century (due to the state of preservation it is difficult to determine the type of vessel and the other from the 19th century). (due to the state of preservation it is difficult to determine the type of the vessel) and the other one from the 19th century. This is the so-called berlinka, which is an elongated barge for navigation on canals and rivers. “We are pleased that we have doubled this result” – the archaeologist does not hide his satisfaction.

The researchers also came across the remains of a World War II bridge. They are located at the level of Łomianki Dolne. It consists of five piles driven into the river bed. Remnants of the steel structure have also survived. “From our analyses and from historical information, it seems that the bridge was erected by German sappers,” says Brzóska.

Sonar mounted on a speedboat was used for the survey. Only after selecting promising sites did the scientists dive to verify the findings. Even before undertaking the actual research, they tested the sonar on the Vistula near Warsaw’s Old Town.

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Relics of a World War II bridge, photo. A. Brzóska

During these experiments it was also possible to find a fragment of a ship stuck in the river bed. In Brzóska’s opinion, it could also be a boat, as evidenced by a fragment of this vessel pulled to the surface. It is a wooden frame (bottom section), weighing about 250 kg, which is an element of the skeleton of the ship’s bow or stern.

The scientist stresses that the research was very time-consuming. In total, throughout 2019, the archaeologists sailed about 400 kilometres in parallel lanes by motorboat – all to explore 13 kilometres of river covering an area of nearly 500 hectares.

Now the scientists would like to take samples for research from the found ships, thanks to which it would be possible to precisely determine the age of the sunken vessels. The project was financed by the Ministry of Culture and Scientific Heritage with substantial support from the Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw.

More about the search for shipwrecks in the waters of the Vistula River, you will be able to read this week, in the article by Artur Brzóska and Andrzej Szerszen, in the 12th issue of DIVERS24 magazine.

Source: www.naukawpolsce.pap.pl
Photo: Vessel discovered in Łomianki Dolne – sonar image, photo. Szerszeń

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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