Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Divers in Norway find unique 14th century shipwreck in good shape


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TELEMARK, Norway -- The wreckage of a ship dating from the 14th century has been found by scuba divers in the Skien River in Telemark. Archaeologists have a new treasure on their hands, because the wreckage can offer rare insight into vessel construction in the Middle Ages.

Many had feared that the vessel from the Middle Ages was damaged when it was first discovered during dredging operations in the 1950s.

"The dredging brought up large portions of the vessel's woodwork in 1953, and marine archaeologists thought the vessel itself had been destroyed," Pål Nymoen of the Norwegian Maritime Museum in Oslo told newspaper Aftenposten.

The use of scuba divers in marine archaeology wasn't very advanced at the time, he noted, and the shipwreck dubbed Bølevraket was largely forgotten.

It resurfaced, so to speak, this summer when Norwegian authorities decided to place stones along the bottom of the Skien River, which runs into open sea south of Oslo, to hinder underwater erosion. Scuba divers from the Norwegian Maritime Museum were sent into the area, to check whether any cultural treasures remained.

It didn't take long before they could report the re-discovery of wreckage that seemed largely intact. The vessel is believed to have been built during the late 1300s either in Scandinavia or the Baltic region.

The vessel was single-masted and is believed to have been about 20 meters long. Archaeologists think it was sailing from Eidsborg in Lårdal when it sank. The wreckage is lying at a depth of just 10 meters, around 300 meters upstream from Menstad.

Nymoen, who's thrilled over the discovery, is planning a full excavation of the vessel and hopes to raise its smallest portions. "We don't know much about Norwegian vessels from the Middle Ages, except that they became bigger, wider and could carry more cargo over the years," he said. "Pictures have been found in churches and on stone monuments."

"Our goal is to secure as much as possible from the vessel," he said.

SOURCE - Aftenposten

See article in english here.

Divers found well-preserved wooden
portions of the 'Bølevraket' shipwreck
Foto: Norwegian Maritime Museum

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