Relics recovered from shipwreck
An archaeological team announced on Thursday its threeyear excavation of the wreck of the 19th century armor-plated cruiser Zhiyuan has been completed.
Zhou Chunshui, head of the archaeological excavation, near the port of Dandong, Liaoning province, said at a symposium at the National Center of Underwater Cultural Heritage in Beijing that the excavation had yielded many new findings.
Among relics recovered this year at the site where the famed naval ship came to rest were a ceramic plate inscribed Zhiyuan and belongings of officers, confirming the ship’s identity.
The Zhiyuan sank on Sept 17, 1894, during a battle in the First Sino-Japanese War. Two hundred fifty-five officers, soldiers, and crewmen, including Admiral Deng Shichang, died when it was hit by torpedoes, causing a massive explosion. The Zhiyuan has been widely hailed for its heroic attempt to ram a nearby Japanese cruiser after falling under attack. It was built in Great Britain from 1885 to 1887.
“The whole wreck sank into sand, which made a large-scale excavation difficult,” Zhou said. “We were only able to clean smaller areas one after another.”
About 200 artifacts were recovered from the wreck, he said.
The condition of the wreck is not ideal, Zhou said, and the wreck is corroded with rust. Only 61 meters remain of the once 70-meter-long ship.
Though some measures have been taken to slow the corrosion, it is urgent to determine the next steps of a plan to protect the site, he said.
“Field research has ended, but there is much more work to be done,” he said.
The immediate question is whether to raise the wreck from the seabed for further study and exhibition.
Cui Yong, a Guangdong Archaeological Research Institution research- er who participated in the project, said: “Any proposal to salvage it has to be cautious and well-evaluated. Without advanced methods and a guarantee of safety, such a move would lead to irreversible damage.”
Song Xinchao, deputy director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, said the archaeological work on the Zhiyuan could provide invaluable experience for similar underwater projects in the future.
“In China, there are many other iconic ships that sank in the sea during wars in recent history,” Song said. “The work on the Zhiyuan not only promotes patriotism, but offer important references to study the world’s naval history and set criteria for excavations to come.”
The 19th-century Chinese cruiser Zhiyuan sank in 1894 during a battle in the First Sino-Japanese War.