Merchant boat ashore after 800 years at sea bottom

Updated: 2007-12-27 14:40

YANGJIANG, Guangdong -- An 800-year-old merchant boat loaded with precious trading goods anchored at a port here Thursday morning after it was hoisted from the bottom of the sea four days ago.

A merchant boat, dubbed the Nanhai No. 1, or "South China Sea No. 1," is being moved to the "Crystal Palace," the Marine Silk Road Museum of Guangdong in South China's Guangdong Province. Dec. 26. The ancient merchant boat loaded with porcelain, sank off the South China coast 800 years ago. [Xinhua]

With the help of a crane, workers managed to drag the 5,000-ton Nanhai (South China Sea) No. 1 aboard 16 huge air bags to a temporary port at about 1 am after more than three hours of hard work overnight.

The 30-meter-long wooden vessel will continue to move to its final residence of the "crystal palace" in a specially built museum aboard 25 round air bags, each of which is 15 meters long and 1 meter in diameter.

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The ship is expected to arrive at the destination Thursday night and on Friday, it will enter the designated glass pool, where the water temperature, pressure and other environmental conditions are the same as where the ship has lain on the sea bed.

The pool, containing seawater, is 64 meters long, 40 meters wide, 23 meters high and about 12 meters in depth. It will be sealed after the ship and the silt, taken out of water along with the boat, are put in.

The well-preserved boat, containing an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 items of gold, silver, porcelain and copper coins, was raised from about 30-meter depth of the South China Sea by a crane on Saturday.

Officials said recovery will not be carried out immediately and it may last a quite long time in an effort to better protect underwater relics that have been soaked in the sea for such a long time.

Guangdong has earmarked 150 million yuan (US$20.3 million) in building a "Marine Silk Road Museum" to preserve the salvaged ancient ship.

The new museum, run by the municipal government of Yang Jiang, is expected to open to public by the end of next year and visitors will be able watch the ongoing recovery of the ship through windows on two sides of the pool.

Discovered in the summer of 1987 off the coast near Yangjiang city, Nanhai No. 1 was recognized as one of the oldest and biggest merchant boat sunk in the sea.

Archaeologists have recovered more than 4,000 containers made of gold, silver and porcelain, as well as about 6,000 copper coins of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), when the boat was built.

The merchant boat might confirm the existence of an ancient maritime trade route linking China and the West.

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