Friday, February 03, 2006


Sunken Ship to Be Restored After 300 Years

By Bozo Jenje
February 2, 2006

Operations are under way to salvage a 300-year shipwreck in the Indian Ocean near Fort Jesus. The effort is being coordinated by the newly-established unit of under-water archaeology at the National Museums of Kenya (NMK).

The wreck, Galiot, was spotted last month by an archaeologist attached to the museums after a survey of the sea bed off the Fort Jesus Museum.

Talking exclusively to the Nation, the leader of the team, Mr Omar Martin Sommer, said they had started their research in December last year by sailing around the Mombasa Island and were planning to explore the North Coast and South Coast later this year.

Mr Sommer said his team was made up of two people that include a volunteer diver, Mohammed Said.

"We suspect that besides the shipwreck, there could be valuable artifacts on the sea bed and it will be vital for them to be traced and documented," he said.

Mr Sommer said the shipwreck they had spotted was one of the two vessels that were escorting San Antonio de Tanna, a Portuguese naval ship that sank in 1697 and was salvaged in 1978 near Fort Jesus.

"The wreck is a few metres away from the Fort Jesus, not far from the place where San Antonio de Tanna sank," he said.

Mr Sommer said they had identified the site, found some timber, made drawings and taken measurements of the size of the Galiot but they would not excavate immediately.

"This time we are doing the preliminary survey," he said.

The archaeologist said there were four ships when San Antonio sunk, but one of them, Nketsa senora de velle, sailed to India afterwards.

This year, the team plans to visit Ungwana Bay in Tana River District to research on the submerged Ungama town in Kipini as fishermen had said that the sunken town was visible.

The marine expert appealed to any person with photographs of any ship wreck at the Coast to make the information available to the National Museums offices in Mombasa.

According to the head of the Coastal Archaeology, Mr Herman Kiriama, the National Museum of Kenya had recruited underwater archaeologist to establish a full-fledged maritime archaeology department at the NMK.


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