Ancient shipwrecks found

Sunday July 30, 2006

Three shipwrecks including one resembling a Portuguese warship have been discovered in the Straits of Malacca. Well-knownAustralian maritime archaeologist Dr Michael Flecker, who has carriedout more than 100 explorations in numerous countries around the region,made the latest discovery during a blanket survey along the Straitslast year. “At one location, I have found two vessels lyingside by side,” said Dr Flecker, who was reluctant to reveal the actuallocation to prevent looting.

VITAL FIND: Pieces of broken porcelain ware are used as reference to identifying items found at shipwrecks. He also revealed pictures he had taken of cannons, cannon balls, bonesof animals that were consumed on the ships and broken Ming dynastyporcelain. Dr Flecker is the managing director of MaritimeExplorations and has been involved in underwater explorations for thepast 20 years. He said the warship was located in an area between PulauUpeh and Pulau Panjang off the coast of Malacca. “So far,based on our research which has been done some four nautical miles fromthe coast of Malacca (within Federal waters), the ship could have beena Portuguese vessel under the command of Admiral Coutinho. It sank in1583 during a battle.

DrFlecker: ‘Based on our research the ship could be a Portuguese ship,under the command of Admiral Coutinho, which sank in 1583 during abattle’ “This is an important find as this shows that thelocals resisted the Portuguese occupation of Malacca,” he said,speculating that the ship could have been taken down by an Acehnese warfleet. He said the ships were detected using sonar and their location and authenticity confirmed through dives. DrFlecker said although his findings were very preliminary, he wasexcited about the prospect of possibly finding what could be the oldestEuropean ship found in Malaysian waters.

FODDER FOR THOUGHT: A cannon found at the wreckage site in The Straits of Malacca. “I am actually more interested in the area nearer the coast which isunder state jurisdiction (within three nautical miles). If this issearched, the chances of finding more ships are much higher,” he added. Dr Flecker said it was up to the state government to approvethe permit to conduct his search within state waters, adding that hehad submitted reports to the state government of his finds. InKuala Lumpur, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr RaisYatim said he was aware of the find and that he had been informed ofthe progress and what had been done. “I have also talked tothe state government and if anything else develops, Dr Flecker shouldinform National Museum director-general Datuk Dr Adi Taha, and theGovernment will pick it up from there. “Who knows? We might be uncovering something interesting,” he said.

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