MARITIME EXPLORATIONS
THE CENTRAL GULF OF THAILAND SHIPWRECK (16th C.)

Background

The Central Gulf of Thailand Shipwreck (otherwise known as the Klang Aow Shipwreck) was another fishermen find, some 60 miles offshore and in 60 m of water. Mike Hatcher obtained the position and mobilised a supply boat and saturation dive spread to recover the Thai ceramics cargo. The vessel, gear, and divers were supplied by Divcon International. Flecker accompanied the expedition to document the wreck site.

When the bulk of the cargo had been recovered the Thai navy intervened, and after a prolonged stand-off, confiscated the ceramics. The Thais claimed violation of territorial waters, although the site was actually in the Exclusive Economic Zone, where shipwreck excavation is not specifically banned. Free right of passage is guaranteed through the EEZ, while stopping to work is not necessarily permitted. The legality of the confiscation remains cloudy.

 

Spread

The supply boat, Australia Tide, was mobilised out of Singapore. She was fitted with a saturation dive spread, the first time such a system was ever used to excavate an ancient shipwreck. An ROV assisted with relocating the site. Airlifts were chosen for excavation, and scuba was used for recording the hull.

 

Recovered Cargo

Over 8,000 Thai ceramics were brought to the surface, including many storage jars. Some of the jars had organic contents, while others contained smaller ceramic items. A few pieces of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain were also recovered, typical of this type of wreck site. Three small Chinese "hand guns" were among the limited number of non-ceramic artefacts recovered.

Gulf of Thailand Wreck Details and Photos

 

Cargo Disposition

The confiscated cargo was reported to have been handed over to the Thai Fine Arts Department, the institution that is responsible for shipwrecks in Thai waters.

Publications

An archaeological report was prepared by Flecker, but several international journals refused to publish due to the commercial and controversial nature of the excavation. Details of the site appear in Flecker's Ph.D. thesis:

The Archaeological Excavation of the 10th Century Intan Shipwreck, National University of Singapore, 2001; BAR International Series 1047, Archaeopress, Oxford, 2002, and in

The South-China-Sea Tradition: Hybrid Hulls of Southeast Asia, Flecker, M., International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, Volume 36(1), 2007.

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