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Narodowe Muzeum Morskie w Gdańsku

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60 lat Narodowego Muzeum Morskiego w Gdańsku

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Treasures from the Baltic Sea

27.08.2009 |

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Treasures from the Baltic Sea

An archaeological expedition to a shipwreck lying at the depth of more than 80 metres, about 60 nautical miles off Cape Rozewie, searching the unexplored so far wreck called "Bookcarrier" has finished on August 2009. Little is known about the ship as such. Most probably she was a 17th-century merchant ship. Up till now, only a few things have been rescued from the mysterious wreck: some wooden planks, tin bowls and a book the ship was nicknamed after. These findings, however, were random, because the wreck was discovered many years ago by fishermen, as their nets frequently got caught in her remnants. A-few-day-long expedition of marine archaeologists and divers on board of ORP "Lech" was supposed to establish the ship’s age and origin. Divers from the Support Unit of the 3rd Ship Flotilla and the Naval Divers Training Centre were appointed to inspect the ship’s interior, determine the condition of her hull, and salvage historical artefacts from her board. The staff of the Underwater Archaeology Department from the Polish Maritime Museum also joined the expedition. During the voyage a sonar was used to penetrate three possible locations of the shipwreck in the area within a 600-metre radius. Unfortunately the attempt to identify the ship was unsuccessful. Penetration of the depths was hampered at first by weather conditions, and then by running short of time. "We spent two days waiting for the weather to improve. Then we started to penetrate some other wreck", explained Iwona Pomian from the Polish Maritime Museum, a co-organiser of the expedition. Although the "Bookcarrier" expedition did not bring expected results, the team of divers and marine archaeologists managed to penetrate another shipwreck, "Granary", nicknamed after the major cargo she carried. The first expedition to the wreck lying offshore Hel Peninsula at the same depth as "Bookcarrier" was carried out at the end of July 2009 and brought sensational results. It turned out that in the fore body of the ship there were well preserved sacks with grain stored. Sample analysis showed that it was rye. Since this kind of grain was mainly traded by the Dutch, the ship herself – as archaeologists assumed – could have sailed under the Dutch flag. During the first search of the ship a few objects were salvaged, including some stoneware and a bottle of wine, tightly corked. "We approached the wreck again, mainly to carry out inventorying, complete documentation, and to take some wood samples for a dendrochronological analysis", Iwona Pomian remarked. Although the aim of the second expedition was not another exploration of the ship, also this time the explorers salvaged some unique objects, including two wooden exhibits: a hawse-hole and some unspecified support, together with a large stoneware jar containing some grease-like substance. The next expedition to the shipwreck is not expected. And although Iwona Pomian said that the analysis of the wood and salvaged objects did not allow for unambiguous identification of the tall ship’s country of origin, the artefacts that were analysed would certainly contribute to disclosing some mysteries of the ship. What else can be found under the surface of the Baltic? Since this question keeps bothering both divers and Polish Maritime Museum’s researchers, that is why the shipwreck of "Bookcarrier" still poses a great challenge. The action, or perhaps we should call it a mission to the ship clad in mystery is still waiting for its renaissance.

Marta Nicgorska


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