Vietnamese fishermen find another old shipwreck near central coast

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Broken pieces of potteries a fisherman in Quang Ngai Province found in a newly-discovered old shipwreck Friday. Photo by Hien Cu

Fishermen in the central province of Quang Ngai have found another old sunken boat near the shore, the third old shipwreck spotted in the waters recently and only 100 meters from the second one found last September.

Though it was near midnight on Thursday, around 30 fishing boats had rushed over for a treasure hunt upon hearing of the discovery, which happened around 100 meters off Chau Thuan Bien Village of Binh Son District, and around 1.5 meters under water. 

They were jostling around above the boat's location, around 100 meters to the west of one that was salvaged last July, when more than 4,000 intact antiques were recovered and some were believed to come from the 13th century.

Boats also dredged the sea bed around the area in hopes it would stir up some antiques.

Many people used axes and crowbars to take the antiques quickly, only to break many pottery plates and bowls.

Nguyen Van Thinh, a more gentle hunter, said: "There are many antiques in the boat, but people fought so much for them, smashing them"¦ What a waste!"

Thinh said the boat is buried under sand, but part of its has been revealed by dredging and the wooden body looks new.

Police and other security forces were deployed and cleared the chaos on Friday morning.

Doan Ngoc Khoi, deputy director of Quang Ngai Museum, estimated the antiques had come from the 16th or 17th century.

"Their patterns are very sophisticated, and totally different from those on the 13th-century relics found on the other boat."

Officials have ordered full-time security at the site and asked experts to quickly work on a excavation plan, together with Ho Chi Minh City-based salvage company Doan Anh Duong that helped with the other boat last month.

The previous shipwreck site was looted for days, and an attempt to recover the relics last October failed as the locals protested and threw rocks at police officers and turned police trucks upside down, arguing that finders should be keepers.

Experts said the new discovery was the third ancient shipwreck found in the village's waters since 1998.

Nguyen Dang Vu, director of Quang Ngai Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said such many discoveries do not only enrich Vietnam's antiques collections, but also helped provide evidence for a silk and pottery route involving Asian and Western traders across the East Sea centuries ago.

Vu said archaeologists engaged in the salvage last month said some antiques came from outside that boat, which suggested that the waters have many shipwrecks from different ages and countries, and with different kinds of cargos. 

The province has allowed Doan Anh Duong company to launch its own survey of the waters.

Vietnam has excavated four other old shipwrecks since the 1990s, in waters off Vung Tau and Kien Giang in the south, all after fishermen's discoveries.

Seabed Exploration, a company that specializes in salvaging shipwrecks in Southeast Asia, estimates that Vietnamese waters have around 40 old ships, but the government has done little with the information.

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