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Archival records led to the wreck

Listen to this article A married couple of Australian marine archaeologists have found a ship in the coastal waters of Borneo that dates back more than 150 years. Hans and Roz Berekoven located the wreck, which sank in the mid-19th century after leaving the port of Singapore. A pair of marine archaeologists said it was
Published: May 4, 2011 - 10:53
Updated: March 1, 2023 - 15:48
Listen to this article

A married couple of Australian marine archaeologists have found a ship in the coastal waters of Borneo that dates back more than 150 years. Hans and Roz Berekoven located the wreck, which sank in the mid-19th century after leaving the port of Singapore.

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A pair of marine archaeologists said it was highly unlikely that any treasure would be found on the wreck, as the vessel was a typical merchant ship. However, it is a great source of information about the trade and transport of goods at the time.

There is no gold or valuables, just some cutlery and crockery and a couple of centuries-old bottles of wine,” said H. Berekoven

In 1842. “Viscount Melbourne” during a voyage from India to China, called at the port of Singapore, where she replenished supplies and took on board passengers. At the beginning of the voyage she had over 70 people on board. Less than 3 days after leaving port she was hit by a gale and damaged near a coral reef.

The ship was carrying bales of cotton, which after being soaked in water determined its fate. With the passage of time, the cargo increasing its volume would literally blow up the hold and puncture the ship’s plating, so it was decided to abandon it immediately and dump it near the reef – as one of the survivors recalls in his diary.

The crew and passengers left the ship in lifeboats, which became their home for several weeks. Plagued by problems such as dangerous weather and encounters with pirates, they finally reached Borneo.

In the meantime, Britain sent a second ship, “The Royalist”, to search for survivors from the “Viscount Melbourne”, which was written off due to the lack of valuable cargo. The press of the time reported the whole event in its pages, but interest in the whole situation quickly disappeared and the ship, left to her fate, eventually sank.

In 1950, the Straits Times published a series of articles entitled ‘A Dangerous Voyage by Sea’ about the survivors’ struggle and their journey to Borneo. It was these publications that provided the key to a pair of archaeologists finding the wreck.

The couple came across the information on the wreck and survivors by accident, while carrying out another project. An internet search led them to excerpts from articles published online, and then to full copies of the articles, stored at the National Library of Singapore.

“In the library archives, we spent five days reconstructing the route taken by the surviving passengers. As it turned out, the diaries we relied on were kept extremely detailed and meticulously.” – said H.Berkoven, and then added:

“Tracing back the route of those rescued from aboard the ‘Viscount Melbourne’ we came to the site of its sinking and after just 25min we located the wreck at a depth of 40m. Of course there was no more cotton inside, but the traces of destruction, indisputably point to the cause of the ship’s sinking.”

That was in April last year, and since then Mr and Mrs Berkoven have dived on the wreck several more times, each time unearthing small objects such as spoons and bottles. All the objects, they assure us, will go to the regional maritime museum.

Another goal the explorers have set themselves is to make a documentary film about the surviving passengers.

“It’s an amazing story, the ship was named after the then Prime Minister of England, there was a woman on board with her children, including a two-year-old son. What they went through at sea reads almost like a finished script.” – reports R. Berekoven

Source: www.thejakartaglobe.com

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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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