Pacific giving up coins from Ottoman wreck

Pacific giving up coins from Ottoman wreck

MUĞLA – Doğan News Agency
Pacific giving up coins from Ottoman wreck

Gold, silver and bronze coins have been found during recent expeditions off the coast of Japan around the wreck of an ill-fated Ottoman frigate, the Ertuğrul. DHA Photo

Divers working to salvage artifacts from the wreck of the Ottoman frigate Ertuğrul in the Pacific Ocean have discovered coins from the boat’s safe on the bottom of the ocean, but worries remain that more effects from the ship will be destroyed with the passage of time.

“We found it strange that there were no Ottoman coins in the area while there were many British, Japanese and Hong Kong coins,” said the head of the project to salvage parts of the ship, Tufan Turanlı. “But then I thought that it was normal because even today, when people go abroad, they have the currency of the country they visit or a more acceptable currency, not the currency of their own country. At the end of the 19th century, British gold was popular. Naturally, the Ottomans had British currency as well as the currencies of Japan and Hong Kong, where they will visit.” 

Ottoman coins have been found on previous expeditions on the ocean floor.

The frigate was sent by the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II to give gifts to the Japanese emperor, but it encountered a typhoon off the coast of Wakayama Prefecture and sank on Sept. 16, 1890. The accident resulted in the loss of 533 sailors.

The coins have been delivered to officials at the Turkish Museum in Kushimoto in Japan for display. Other works are continuing underwater to find the safe from which the coins came. 

Excavations started on the frigate in the Pacific Ocean six years ago. Works started once again on Jan. 19 with a team including eight Japanese divers, a Spanish archaeologist and U.S. scientists under the leadership of Turanlı. 

Within the scope of the project, sponsored by the Mersin Naval Trade Chamber and Turkish Airlines, excavation works have been carried out 100 meters off the coast under waters reaching a depth of 20 to 40 meters.

The gold, silver and bronze coins were found in a cave 20 meters deep. At the same time, 264 pieces from the frigate, as well as the personal effects of some of the sailors were brought to light during the works, according to officials. 

Work to conserve and restore them are continuing at the Ertuğrul Research Center, while the new artifacts will be displayed at the Turkish Museum in Kushimoto alongside previously discovered artifacts. 

The expedition is focused on a cave area where the remains of the Ertuğrul are relatively well-protected, said Turanlı. 

“The pieces that were found in the same area between 2008 and 2010 were very well-protected from storms and typhoons in the region. The other pieces lying in waters 12 to 17 meters deep are suffering damage from typhoons. The remains and materials of the frigate perish every other day. As they perish, the memories of those that died on the Ertuğrul perish, too. We have salvaged 7,550 artifacts since we started the project in 2007 and are working to conserve them,” said Turanlı. 

Hopes of finding ship’s safe

Turanlı said that in the region where they found the coins, they also found valuable silver Meiji Yen from the year 1889, attracting the attention of researchers and Japanese experts. 

Turanlı said the key to the safe that they had found was strong. “An expert told us that it was made of the strongest materials. We found the coins in this cave; this is why we think that the safe of the frigate is around here. I am excited thinking that we might find the safe of the Ertuğrul. What makes me excited is not to find more coins but safes are used to protect valuable things. Maybe we can find things and documents belonging to the sailors. We are continuing work underwater and in the research center,” he said.