Cannons and china - treasure hunting in Indonesia
By Christiane Oelrich
Jul 23, 2009, 3:08 GMT
Jakarta - In the lore surrounding hidden treasures, the gods often see fit to subject the treasure hunter to a long quest before he finds the objects of his desire.
Treasure hunter Klaus Keppler knows that only too well. For years, the owner of a salvage company has been looking for the wrecks of ships that had been carrying gold, silver or china. Now, after a long dry spell, he got lucky. Twice.
Keppler - who has recovered a 10th-century wreck and the Forbes, a British vessel that ran aground in 1806, off Indonesia - contentedly surveys his treasures in a Jakarta port storehouse, holding up a huge lump of silver coins.
'Hurry up, this thing is incredibly heavy,' the 70-year-old German urges a photographer but with a big smile on his face.
The divers of his salvage ship, the Maruta Jaya, have recovered many kilograms of silver coins from the Forbes as well as cannon, gold jewellery, crystal, silverware and 400 bottles of wine.
'Those gentlemen on board knew how to live well,' he says.
Especially the many different coins will sell well, he believes, spinning a large one between his fingers: 'One coin can be worth between 50 dollars and several thousand.'
This is even more so the case if the history of the artefact is known. Keppler hired a young man to scour archives around the world for information about the Forbes.
The vessel sailed the seas under a commission from the British king, a kind of pirate with a royal permit. It ran aground on a reef off Belitung island, between Borneo and Sumatra, en route to India on September 9, 1806.
Captain Frazer Sinclair and his crew survived. The Mampango reef was only charted five years later.
Upstairs in Keppler's storehouse, four archaeology students measure, photograph and describe every recovered coin and enter the results in a databank.
'Everything gets documented,' Keppler says. Officials from various Indonesian ministries who must accompany every search trip make sure that no treasures are squirreled away.
The Indonesian state receives 50 per cent of all revenues derived from the treasure hunts in its territory. While it is rumoured among treasure hunters that some officials are not adverse to cutting individual deals, the searchers also eye each other with mistrust.
Hey Cornelius, I'm sure you can relate to this article. How is it going with your shipwreck in Indonesia? Have you found a salvage company yet?Linkback:
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