Divers solve mystery of 400-year-old sunken ship found in near-perfect condition

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A ship found in near perfect condition in the Baltic Sea last summer has finally been identified as a Dutch ‘fluyt’ – a ship designed to carry maximum cargo with minimum crew

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Baltic Sea: Divers explore mysterious centuries-old wreck

The mystery of a centuries-old wreck found at the bottom of the sea in near perfect condition has been solved, after divers were able to identify the vessel.

The ship, known as the fluyt, was designed to carry maximum cargo with minimum crew – a design that helped forge the Dutch Empire.

But its discovery in the Baltic Sea last summer left many questions unanswered, so divers decided to return to the wreck.

Now archaeologists are celebrating a miraculous breakthrough, having found a transom with both the name of the ship and the year it was launched.

“The identities of the ships were revealed by the carved designs on the transom,” said archaeologist Niklas Eriksson of Stockholm University.








Archaeologists are happy to have resolved questions about the identity of the sunken wreck
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Picture:

Credit: Badewanne / Pen News)




“Fragments of such motifs have already been found, but now that we have the complete composition, we are able to identify the ship in the same way as the people of the 17th century.

“The ship was named ‘Swan’ and built in 1636. A closer examination of the transom will most likely reveal the coat of arms of the ship’s home port as well.”

Minna Koivikko, Finnish Heritage Agency, added: “This discovery gives me faith in miracles. I have never experienced anything like this in my 30-year career.








The wreck was discovered in the Baltic Sea last year
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Picture:

Credit: Badewanne / Handle Productions / Pen News)




Jouni Polkko, from Badewanne – the dive team that found the wreckage, described when he saw the sculpture on the sunken artifact.

He said, “I focused so much on the camera that I couldn’t see the digital prints on display immediately with precision.

“But I saw there was something so I yelled at my dive buddy, Tommi, who yelled number 1636 – then I recognized the number too.”

It wasn’t until later that he realized how lucky they were.

“In the two and a half hour decompression there was of course time to think,” he continued.

“I realized that there was actually a pretty high probability that the numbers may have been worn over time and not be visible, or no numbers at all.

“We were lucky that this was the result and it’s great!

Archaeologist Martijn Manders, of the Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency, said the new details could even give the names of the crew members.








A fluyt, a Dutch-made vessel, was designed to carry the maximum amount of cargo with a minimum of crew
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Picture:

Credit: Badewanne / Handle Productions / Pen News)




“These new findings are a great starting point for doing more research,” he said.

“We may even be able to identify the people on board.

“The new findings also help us learn more about fluyt: a simple and common vessel, which created the right conditions for early globalization.

“The fluyt underscored the quintessentially Dutch approach to shipbuilding and symbolized the flourishing maritime trade of the time. “

The fluyt, a three-masted vessel, had a roomy hull to maximize its cargo capacity.

It also did not carry cannons and featured an intelligently designed rig that allowed a smaller crew to hoist and adjust the sails, freeing up even more space and reducing costs.

Meanwhile, her shallow draft gave the ship access to ports and rivers that other ships could not.

As widespread as it is, however, few examples of the ship survive today – even in the form of wrecks.

This wreck rests at a depth of 85 meters in conditions particularly favorable to preservation.








Archaeologists can even name the ship’s crew members
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Picture:

Credit: Niklas Eriksson / Handle Productions / Pen News)




With low salinity, absolute darkness and low temperatures all year round, the aging process is slowed down.

And above all, the environment is poorly adapted to xylophagous organisms such as tarets.

The ship is in such good condition, in fact, that we don’t even know why it sank – and we may never know.

A documentary following the investigation of the vessel, ‘Fluit’, is currently in production.

In its time, the Dutch Empire spanned five continents, becoming an economic superpower that was single-handedly responsible for half of European shipping by 1670.

The Dutch Golden Age lasted until the end of the 17th century, but the empire eventually lost many of its colonial possessions to the ascending British Empire.


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