Friday, August 20, 2004


East Timor's Underwater Riches - Dutch and French shipwrecks


Far Eastern Economic Review
Issue cover-dated August 19, 2004

As it tussles with Australia for a greater share of offshore oil and gas reserves, East Timor may soon be able to lay sole claim to other marine treasures--old shipwrecks.

Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta told the REVIEW that local fishermen had found two shipwrecks at unspecified locations off the north coast of East Timor.

One is said to be a Dutch vessel, while the second is a French boat from the 17th or 18th century that is believed to have sunk during a naval engagement with a Portuguese ship.

Timorese officials do not know if there is any treasure on board, but they believe it is worth retrieving goods of historical, artistic and archaeological interest from the two wrecks. "A salvage agreement is being entered into with an internationally recognised company," another senior official says, adding only that the firm is from Germany and wants to work on the French vessel.

East Timor has a fascinating and rich early maritime history with the first Europeans, Portuguese traders, landing in 1511 in search of sandalwood.


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