Tagarchief: japan

Searching underwater for the Van Bosse ship (1857)

A team of underwater archaeologists consisting of two members of the Japanese National Committee for Research and the Examination of Underwater Cultural Heritage Dr. Ikeda and Dr. Kimura, as well as mr. Sasaki from the National Museum of Kyushu and mr. Manders from the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands has arrived on Tarama island. This is one of the most Southwestern Islands of the Japanese archipelago, actually very close to Taiwan.

In November a Japanese team of professional archaeologists and sports divers associated with the only dive school on the island – Jaws 2 – will map and assess the site of the Van Bosse wreck and make it accessible for the sports divers who spend their holidays on the island. The visit now in August is mainly initiated as a start of the project about the Van Bosse shipwreck which includes also educational elements and archival research in several countries. The 22nd of August the team was welcomed by the department of education of the island that effectively is responsible for the management of this and other archaeological sites. They have assured us that all help in this is welcome. After this meeting we went to the dive shop to sort out our gears and then settled down in our condo which we share together.

The evening was used to discuss the possibilities to find elements of the wrecksite underwater and to pinpoint the exact place of wreckage, which is still not completely known. Dr. Kaneda wrote in 2001 an article ‘Historical Investigation concerning the Dutch Ship Van Bosse Wrecked Off the coast of the Tarama Islet’ and this article has also been discussed between the archaeologists in order to find out what the chances of finding wreckage are and what kind of research should be further conducted.

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The morning on the 23rd we were up early to go diving from the beach to the place where the ship according to accounts must have wrecked and where a fisherman has salvaged many pottery over the years. Indeed by walking on the beach we collected many pottery shards of different kinds. These are however mainly Chinese.

The coastal waters around the island Tarama are very shallow and abruptly become much deeper with here and there dangerous rocks ending just a few meters under the sea surface. For somebody who is not acquainted with these waters, it is a dangerous place. The underwater world, just at the edge of shallow and deep is however stunningly beautiful!

The second dive today was in deeper waters with the dive shop Jaws 2 and their ship. At 28 meters of depth, again on the edge of where the water gets very shallow and  near the place we had been diving in the morning, a considerable amount of pottery shards from large Chinese storage jars can be seen lying on the seabed. Were these used at the Van Bosse ship? It came from China…

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Also an enormous iron crate was discovered. Definitely something has happened here. The area however is large and the research in November should reveal the size of the site and maybe even also the location of impact: where the ship has hit the reef.

Tonight we will talk with an old fisherman. Let’s see if he can help us out.  Tomorrow, the 24th we are invited by the head of the island, similar to a mayor and in the afternoon we have a round up with the advisory board of the heritage of Tarama. Then up to Fukuoka for further talks at the Kyushu National Museum, our partner in shared heritage management.

Martijn Manders, maritime archaeologist/Head Maritime Programme RCE

Japanese – Dutch research on shipwreck Van Bosse about to begin

In August, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) is joining forces with the Kyushu National Museum to conduct an exploratory research on the Dutch shipwreck Van Bosse. The research focuses on exploring opportunities for mapping the Van Bosse and providing accessibility to the wreck for local sports divers. The project is a continuation of existing cooperation with Japan in the field of maritime archeology within the framework of Dutch Shared Cultural Heritage policy. The site of this Dutch wreck is already protected locally. The ship was built in Germany, but registered by the Dutch owner in Rotterdam.

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The ship Van Bosse was originally built in 1854 in Germany. The 665t big three master barque, which was employed by the Bonke & Co. Trading in Rotterdam was on its way from Shanghai to Singapore when it sank during a storm in 1857 at Tarama island, Okinawa prefecture. Luckily all 27 people on board survived, but before they could return to Batavia in the Dutch East Indies, people stayed several months in Okinawa and integrated into the local community.

The story of the sinking of the Van Bosse and the interaction of the people of Tarama with the crew of the ship are recorded in detail. It gives us a good insight into the history of the Ryukyu Kingdom and the relationship that it had with foreign powers at a time when the self-isolationism of Japan had just been lifted. It is striking that until few years ago nobody knew exactly what ship it was, although the story of the sinking of the ship was well known. We know it now, thanks to extensive research in Dutch archives.

The Van Bosse shipwreck is registered as a Village Historic Site (オ ラ ン ダ 船 遭難 の 地: Oranda-sen Sonan no Chi ~ Site of Dutch ship wreck). It lies on a reef at depths ranging from a few meters to about 30 meters. Over the years, an iron anchor was lifted, which is on display in a local museum, and several other finds such as a complete Lucas Bols gin bottle and some salvaged porcelain shards.

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However, there’s more to be found. Despite the protected status of the ship an archeological significance assessment of the wreck site has not yet been made. This will take place this autumn and is having its official start now in August, with a first joint visit to the site. Ultimately this will lead to a management plan for the site in which all interests should be taken into account. The Van Bosse wreck is already dived regularly by sport divers. A local dive shop has voluntarily undertaken protection of the site. The local authorities are working on an active promotion. The aim is to use the wreck to attract more recreational divers to the island. But what measures are necessary to facilitate an intensive visit of sports divers? How, for example, can the remains underwater be protected while still visible and accessible to visitors? And there is need for more information about the site to allow divers to fully experience the wreck and its history when they are underwater.

In August Dr. Ikeda from the University of Okinawa, Dr. Jun Kimura of the Tokai University in Tokyo (with students), Randy Sasaki of the Kyushu National Museum and Martijn Manders (RCE)  will officially start the project. In November, the Japanese partners will conduct follow-up research historical research in the Netherlands and Germany will be coordinated by the RCE.

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Late August the World Archaeological Congress (WAC http://wac8.org/) will be held in Kyoto, Japan. As part of the Japanese – Dutch cooperation Martijn Manders and Yoshihi Akashi will represent the Fukuoka prefecture and chair the session ‘Global Perspectives on Underwater Cultural Heritage Management’. The presentations will elaborate on universal values of the underwater cultural heritage management, what needs to be improved in management and the way countries can cooperate in the protection of underwater cultural heritage. This fits exactly with the way the research on the Van Bosse shipwreck is implemented: a collaboration between various parties in the country where the ship sank, Japan, and the country of origin, the Netherlands.

Martijn Manders, maritime archaeologist/Head Maritime Programme RCE

Japanse archeologen op bezoek: dag 4 & 5

Twee dagen lang hebben we twee Japanse archeologen op bezoek: Randy Sasaki en Dr. Ikeda. Zij zijn benieuwd hoe we onze werkzaamheden plannen en uitvoeren en hoe het hele beheer van het onderwater cultureel erfgoed in Nederland is ingericht.

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De Japanse Cultureel Erfgoed Dienst is bezig met het opzetten van het beheer voor het cultureel erfgoed onderwater in Japan. Er worden verschillende diensten over de hele wereld bezocht om uiteindelijk een voor Japan geschikt systeem te kiezen.

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Ze vermaken zich uitstekend, al zijn ze wel geschrokken van het zicht onderwater! Wij zijn het zo onderhand wel gewend, maar het blijft bijzonder om in dit donker, troebel en stromend water archeologisch onderzoek uit te voeren.

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We zijn tevens begonnen met de eerste tests voor de filmopnamen. Met deze beelden kunnen we later, met behulp van speciale software, een 3D reconstructie van het wrak maken. In deze omstandigheden valt het nog niet mee om geschikte beelden te krijgen. Het zicht is verbeterd (af en toe zelfs meer dan een meter), maar er is ook nog veel zand in het water. Toch zijn de eerste tests behoorlijk geslaagd. In de tweede week gaan we met de opgedane ervaringen aan de slag.

Martijn Manders,  Thijs Coenen

Foto’s: Paul Voorthuis/Highzone.nl