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Mysteries of Archaeology

29.12.2011 |

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Mysteries of Archaeology

Following its 50th anniversary last year, the Polish Maritime Museum (CMM) invites everyone to a unique exhibition "Submerge and discover the secrets of the Baltic wrecks". The exhibition presents the Museum’s vast achievements in marine archaeology and conservation of shipwrecks brought out of the sea. The CMM, established in 1960, faced a real challenge: How to acquire original artefacts documenting Polish and European maritime history of shipbuilding and sea trade. The answer was the decision to start our own underwater research and establish the conservation unit. In more than 42 years, three successive research ships, the "Modra Woda", the "Wodnik" and the "Kaszubski Brzeg", as well as numerous teams of divers and archaeologists have explored over 30 shipwrecks. The exhibition shows the most famous and most spectacular discoveries made in the Baltic Sea, which arouse international interest.

Merchant ship called the "Copper Ship" (nicknamed after the cargo it carried) was built about 1399 and sank in 1408 when a fire broke out shortly after the vessel left the harbour in Gdańsk. More than 3,000 artefacts have been found in her wreck. They survived because, as a result of the fire, much of the hull and the cargo was covered by a layer of liquid tar from barrels carried by the ship. When hardened, the tar formed a crust – a kind of time capsule, unique evidence of medieval trade in northern Europe. The exhibition displays copper plates, iron ingots, iron ore, timber logs, lumps of wax and wood tar, as well as onions and garlic, the preservation of which required high conservation skills.

The "SOLEN" – a 150-last (300 tons) Swedish galeon, a battleship armed with 38 guns. In autumn 1627 the vessel was one of the squadron sent to the Gulf of Gdańsk and sunk during the Battle of Oliwa. More than 6,000 artefacts have been retrieved from the shipwreck, of which the most valuable is the collection of 20 bronze cannon – Swedish, Russian and Polish. Apart from these there are also other military artefacts: gun carriages, cannonballs, gunpowder scoops and dispensers, muskets, fragments of hand-to-hand combat weaponry. Another group of exhibits includes the seamen’s personal belongings: leatherwear, silver and copper coins, clay smoking pipes, etc., together with navigational instruments, kitchenware, boatswain’s tools and parts of rigging (pulleys, deadeyes and ropes).

Possibly the "DE JONGE SEERP" she was a merchant ship of the "kuff" type, 30 metres in length. Some of the artefacts salvaged from the wreck suggest that she was a Dutch vessel. The study of the artefacts and tree-ring dating show that the ship sank in the late 18th century, probably in 1791. The time and place of her sinking suggest she could have been the "De Jonge Seerp", who collided with another sailing vessel. During 13 research seasons more than 10,000 artefacts were retrieved, including parts of rigging and armament, glass- and earthenware, the crew’s personal belongings, parts of kitchen equipment, etc. An octant, a telescope, two light deck cannon made of bronze and a cast-iron cannon are the most interesting artefacts.

It was possible to identify the GENERAL CARLETON because her bell was found. She was a three-masted vessel built in Whitby, England, in 1777. She sank on September 27, 1785, together with her crew of 18 and the cargo of 500 tons of iron and other goods transported from Stockholm to London. She sank off the mouth of the river Piaśnica. More than 700 artefacts have been discovered in the wreck, like the ship’s equipment, rigging, navigational instruments, the boatswain’s and shipwright’s tools, armament, kitchenware and the crew’s personal belongings. A unique specimen is sailors’ working clothing, previously known only from descriptions and rare pictures.

The remains of the medieval harbour in Puck lie at the mouth of the river Płutnica, about 150 m off the present coastline, over an area of 12 hectares, at a depth of 1.5-2.5 m. The site was discovered in 1977. During the research work, the remains of quern-stones and wooden structures were found. The wrecks of three planked boats and a dugout were also discovered.

The early-medieval (10th century) planked boat P-2, now under conservation, consists of several hundred wooden elements of a total volume of 2 cubic metres. It is mainly oak wood of various levels of degradation, and alder wood requiring specialist care, in this case warm bath PEG impregnation.

Conservation of artefacts made of various materials such as wood, leather or metal that remained under water for a long time has become the speciality of the CMM conservators, and the exhibition presents some outstanding effects of their work. There is also an opportunity to get acquainted with various conservation methods.

"Submerge and discover the secrets of the Baltic wrecks"
The Granaries 30.12.2011 - 4.03.2012
Maritime Culture Centre 28.04.2012 - 13.10.2013

The exhibition "Submerge and discover the secrets of the Baltic wrecks" has been financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.