Dutch container search reveals rare ancient shipwreck
THE HAGUE - AFP
Dutch maritime investigators searching for missing containers washed overboard during a North Sea storm have accidentally stumbled on a 16th-century shipwreck, the oldest such a find to date, officials revealed on April 4.
The ancient wreck was discovered during a search for missing containers from the Panama-registered MSC Zoe, which lost almost 350 containers while battling a heavy storm in early January.
Tons of debris littered beaches on the Frisian Islands, an archipelago off the northern Dutch coast, after the mishap.
But while scouring a busy shipping lane for the missing containers, salvage crews found copper plates and wooden beams from a vessel with a smooth hull approximately 30 meters.
"It's the oldest sea-going ship ever found in Dutch waters," the country's science and culture ministry said in a statement. "An immediate archaeological survey was started and researchers determined the wood dated from 1536," the Hague-based ministry said.
It added that the ship was built around 1540 during the reign of Charles V and had been carrying a load of copper plates dated from around the same period.
"It is especially interesting that the copper plates carry the emblem of the Fugger family," the ministry added.
Based in Augsburg in Germany, the Fugger family amassed a massive fortune as bankers and merchants and among other things held a monopoly over copper production.
Dutch Education, Culture and Science Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven called the find "spectacular and a real enrichment of Dutch cultural heritage."
"This is indeed a silver lining to a dark cloud. I'm curious to see what else will surface," Van Engelshoven added.