Sung Dynasty Shipwreck and Recovery
During the height of the period known as the Southern Sung Dynasty, a trading mission set sail from a port in South China on an ocean voyage to South Asia, perhaps planning to venture across the lndian Ocean or farther, up the east coast of lndia to the Middle East. Their vessel, a 300-ton cargo "junk" 'would have most likely departed in February, sailing with the last of the dry southwesterly monsoon winds. The route was a modest voyage to the Moluccas, the fabled Spice lslands in the Malay Archipelago (lndonesia today). Accordingly, they would have sailed around the southern tip of Palawan lsland (in the Philippines), along the Borneo coast and across the Sulu Sea. After passing between the Sulu lslands and Borneo, they would sail southeast across the Celebes Sea, around the northwestern tip of Sulawesi and across the Molucca Sea to Ambon, the heart of the Spice Islands.
Approximately nine hundred years ago (c. 1 115), a monsoon storm crashed the ocean-going junk, its men and cargo of porcelain onto an open-sea reef in the South China Sea too far for a human being to swim to the safety of dry land. The reef was shallow and much of the shipwreck came to rest in less than 30 feet of water. Over the last nine centuries, the reefs living framework entombed the wreckage while the wooden ship decayed and disappeared, leaving only the porcelain packaged in large cargo jars which were in turn packaged in a coral concretion. lncredibly, these giant cargo jars while broken, still were able to adequately protect their contents so securely that most of the porcelain was discovered intact. Some of the pieces were partially broken, while the hostile environment of the sea etched other items; a few rare artifacts became home to centuries of gradual coral growth while others were as bright as the day they left the kiln.
While fishing in a remote area of the South China Sea, fishermen from a village in Palawan found the first remnants of the ship in 1992. Marc and Krist Geriene were on a sport diving trip and happened to meet the fishermen who invited them to their village to view the recovered artifacts. The discovery and subsequent meeting prompted a 3-year search and recovery mission (1993-1996) that encompassed 12 mini-expeditions and hundreds of square miles of surveys. Many of the trips to the sites, including sleeping, eating and working, were made in small narrow boats called bangkas. All of the artifacts have been recorded and documented as part of a larger collection. To date, the artifacts recovered from this ship are the only ones from the Jin Dynasty (within the Sung Dynasty Period) that have not been recovered from a land site or tomb.
Artifacts - Chinese Porcelain available for Purchase.