MARITIME EXPLORATIONS
THE VUNG TAU SHIPWRECK (c. 1690)

Background

The Vung Tau Wreck was discovered by fishermen off the islands of Con Dao in the south of Vietnam. Sverker Hallstrom obtained the license to excavate the wreck after the Vietnam Salvage Corporation (Visal) had carried out preliminary excavation. Flecker directed the primary excavation for Hallstrom in 1991.

The starboard side of the hull, from the keel to the waterline, remained in good condition. It was found to be the hull of a lorcha, a ship of combined Eastern and Western influence, and the first ever found. The wreck has been dated to c. 1690. From an analysis of the cargo it seems that the ship was bound from China to Batavia where the bulk of the ceramics would have been transshipped to a Dutch East India Company vessel for the onward voyage to Holland.

 

Spread

Operations were conducted from the 61 m long, 4,800 BHP supply boat, Dai Lanh. Twenty Vietnamese divers worked with KMB masks using surface decompression on oxygen to maximise bottom times. Flecker designed a high pressure diesel pump and delivery system to supply the water dredges, which had previously been used on the Concepcion excavation.

 

Recovered Cargo

The recovered cargo consisted of over 48,000 ceramics, mostly Kangxi blue-and-white porcelain from the kilns of Jingdezhen, and an impressive collection of white-ware. There were also many pieces of provincial ware, and a wide variety of non-ceramic artefacts ranging from ship's gear to personal possessions.

Vung Tau Wreck Details and Photos

 

Cargo Disposition

Christie's selected 28,000 pieces of porcelain for auction in Amsterdam. The return surpassed all expectations at US$7.3 million. A fully representative sample of ceramics and most artefacts were put on display in the Vung Tau Museum. The remainder of the ceramics, mostly damaged to some extent, were divided between Hallstrom and the Vietnamese Government.

Publications

1. Excavation of an Oriental Vessel of c.1690 off Con Dao, Vietnam, Flecker, M., International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, Volume 21(3), 1992.

2. Porcelain from the Vung Tau Wreck: the Hallstrom Excavation, Jörg, C., Flecker, M., Sun Tree Publishing Ltd., UK, 2001 (Christiaan Jörg is head of the department of Oriental ceramics at the Groninger Museum, the Netherlands).

3. The Vung Tau Cargo, Christie's, Auction Catalogue, 1992.

 
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