The wreckage of six warships and a submarine that have lain on the bottom of the Java Sea since 1942 is now missing, and naval authorities are at a loss to explain the disappearance.
The vessels â€“ including three Dutch ships, six British ships, and a US submarine â€“ all sank during the Battle of the Java Sea in World War II, when allied forces suffered a huge defeat at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Navy off the coast of Indonesia.
The discovery was made during preparations for next year’s 75th anniversary of the battle, with the Dutch defence ministry the first to confirm on Tuesday that the wrecks of two of its ships â€“ HNLMS De Ruyter and HNLMS Java â€“ had completely disappeared.
A large piece of a third Dutch ship, HNLMS Kortenaer, has also vanished.
Shortly after, the British ministry of defence confirmed that HMS Exeter and HMS Encounter had disappeared, with much of a third vessel â€“ HMS Electra â€“ gone as well.
A US submarine, the USS Perch, is also missing.
Naval researchers used sonar to create a 3D map of the seabed where the shipwrecks once lay, and while the vessels are no longer there, the indentation they left on the sea floor is still visible.
While the cause of these disappearances hasn’t yet been confirmed, naval authorities are launching an international investigation, suspecting scrap metal salvagers are to blame.
The Guardian reports that earlier this month the second of Sir John Franklin’s ships was found, 168 years after its doomed expedition, perfectly preserved, on the bottom of the bay.
The long-lost ship of British polar explorer Sir John Franklin, HMS Terror, has been found in pristine condition at the bottom of an Arctic bay, researchers have said, in a discovery that challenges the accepted history behind one of polar explorationâ€™s deepest mysteries.
HMS Terror and Franklinâ€™s flagship, HMS Erebus, were abandoned in heavy sea ice far to the north of the eventual wreck site in 1848, during the Royal Navy explorerâ€™s doomed attempt to complete the Northwest Passage.
All 129 men on the Franklin expedition died, in the worst disaster to hit Britainâ€™s Royal Navy in its long history of polar exploration. Search parties continued to look for the ships for 11 years after they disappeared, but found no trace, and the fate of the missing men remained an enigma that tantalised generations of historians, archaeologists and adventurers.
Now that mystery seems to have been solved by a combination of intrepid exploration â€“ and an improbable tip from an Inuk crewmember.
On Sunday, a team from the charitable Arctic Research Foundation manoeuvred a small, remotely operated vehicle through an open hatch and into the ship to capture stunning images that give insight into life aboard the vessel close to 170 years ago.
â€œWe have successfully entered the mess hall, worked our way into a few cabins and found the food storage room with plates and one can on the shelves,â€ Adrian Schimnowski, the foundationâ€™s operations director, told the Guardian by email from the research vessel Martin Bergmann.
â€œWe spotted two wine bottles, tables and empty shelving. Found a desk with open drawers with something in the back corner of the drawer.â€
The well-preserved wreck matches the Terror in several key aspects, but it lies 60 miles (96km) south of where experts have long believed the ship was crushed by ice, and the discovery may force historians to rewrite a chapter in the history of exploration.
The 10-member Bergmann crew found the massive shipwreck, with her three masts broken but still standing, almost all hatches closed and everything stowed, in the middle of King William Islandâ€™s uncharted Terror Bay on 3 September.
Byzantine shipwreck from the end of 4th century (Yenikapi,Turkey). The ship was loaded with pickled fry (a type of small fish), almonds, walnuts, hazels, muskmelon seeds, olives, peaches and pine cones and roman sauce – garum.
More than five centuries after Christopher Columbusâ€™s flagship, the Santa Maria, was wrecked in the Caribbean, archaeological investigators think they may have discovered the vesselâ€™s long-lost remains â€“ lying at the bottom of the sea off the north coast of Haiti. Itâ€™s likely to be one of the worldâ€™s most important underwater archaeological discoveries.
â€œAll the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbusâ€™ famous flagship, the Santa Maria,â€ said the leader of a recent reconnaissance expedition to the site, one of Americaâ€™s top underwater archaeological investigators, Barry Clifford.
â€œThe Haitian government has been extremely helpful â€“ and we now need to continue working with them to carry out a detailed archaeological excavation of the wreck,â€ he said.
So far, Mr Cliffordâ€™s team has carried out purely non-invasive survey work at the site â€“ measuring and photographing it.
Tentatively identifying the wreck as the Santa Maria has been made possible by quite separate discoveries made by other archaeologists in 2003 suggesting the probable location of Columbusâ€™ fort relatively nearby. Armed with this new information about the location of the fort, Clifford was able to use data in Christopher Columbusâ€™ diary to work out where the wreck should be.
[The] team found and photographed the wreck 10 years ago, but did not realize what it was until recently, the paper reported.
The Santa Maria ran into a reef off the coast of Haiti with Columbus aboard, forcing him to build a small settlement for his crew — the first European settlement in the Americas since the Vikings’ 11th century village in Newfoundland.
He named it La Navidad — Christmas — and then returned to Spain on the Nina, leaving behind 39 crew members unable to fit on the ship.
The third ship, the Pinta, was separated from the other two at the time.
One year later, Columbus returned with 17 ships and some 1,200 men, but the settlement had been burned and no one remained. (This Smithsonian article has more on La Navidad.)
The 2003 discovery of the possible ruins of La Navidad led Clifford to the current location off the coast, where he re-examined the wreck that had been found by his team. He says the size and location in relation to the ruined fort match what he’d expect from the Santa Maria.
â€œI am confident that a full excavation of the wreck will yield the first ever detailed marine archaeological evidence of Columbusâ€™ discovery of America,” Clifford was quoted as saying.
The small number of readers familiar with Henryk Sienkiewicz’s novel of the 17th Century Swedish Invasion of Poland-Lithuania The Deluge will have some sense of its devastating impact on the country. No one living today, however, realised that Swedish looting included the theft of Polish architecture on a massive scale.
A recent major drought in Poland caused the waters of the River Vistula to recede to levels unprecedented in living memory, revealing tons of architectural masonry looted by the Swedes and loaded onto barges for transport down the river to Gdansk, and thence across the Baltic to Sweden. The invaders’ greed apparently exceeded their navigational judgment, and one or more of the barges sank in the river, possibly as the result of overloading.
Low rainfall over the past few months has brought the Vistula, Poland’s longest river, to its lowest level since regular records began 200 years ago. …
Historians believed that the Swedes who invaded Poland in the 17th century planned to move the looted cargo up the Vistula to Gdansk, where the river joins the Baltic Sea, and from there transport it home. There is still no firm explanation of why the boats sank on the way.
Kowalski said he and his team had so far located up to 10 tonnes of stonework, but this was only the beginning. “The boats had a capacity of 50-60 tonnes (each), so we think that we should find much more,” he said.
Once it has been removed from the river bed and catalogued, the plan is to take the masonry to Warsaw’s Royal Castle, one of the sites from which, historians believe, it was looted by the Swedish invaders.
For now though, the low water levels that revealed the artefacts are hampering efforts to retrieve them. Regular lifting equipment would sink into the mud, but the river is too low for the researchers to bring in floating cranes.
“We need to wait until it gets higher,” Kowalski said.
GoÅ›Ä‡ Warszawski [Warsaw’s Guest] has a slideshow
Deep-sea explorers said Friday they have mined what could be the richest shipwreck treasure in history: 17 tons of colonial-era silver and gold coins estimated to be worth $500 million.
A jet chartered by Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Exploration landed in the United States recently with hundreds of plastic containers brimming with coins raised from the ocean floor, Odyssey co-chairman Greg Stemm said. The more than 500,000 pieces are expected to fetch an average of $1,000 each from collectors and investors.
“For this colonial era, I think (the find) is unprecedented,” said rare coin expert Nick Bruyer, who examined a batch of coins from the wreck. “I don’t know of anything equal or comparable to it.”
Citing security concerns, the company declined to release any details about the ship or the wreck site Friday. Stemm said a formal announcement will come later, but court records indicate the coins might come from a 400-year-old ship found off England.
Because the shipwreck was found in a lane where many colonial-era vessels went down, there is still some uncertainty about its nationality, size and age, Stemm said, although evidence points to a specific known shipwreck. The site is beyond the territorial waters or legal jurisdiction of any country, he said. …
He wouldn’t say if the loot was taken from the same wreck site near the English Channel that Odyssey recently petitioned a federal court for permission to salvage.
In seeking exclusive rights to that site, an Odyssey attorney told a federal judge last fall that the company likely had found the remains of a 17th-century merchant vessel that sank with valuable cargo aboard, about 40 miles off the southwestern tip of England. A judge signed an order granting those rights last month.
In keeping with the secretive nature of the project dubbed “Black Swan,” Odyssey also isn’t talking yet about the types, denominations and country of origin of the coins.
Bruyer said he observed a wide range of varieties and dates of likely uncirculated currency in much better condition than artifacts yielded by most shipwrecks of a similar age.
The Black Swan coins – mostly silver pieces – likely will fetch several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars each, with some possibly commanding much more, he said.