Workers placed the first steel beam under the ancient sunken
ship Nanhai No.1 on Tuesday, paving the way for the ship to be
hoisted out of water in mid-October, officials said.
Another 34 beams, each stretching 15 meters and weighing more than
five tons, would be placed under the ship at a pace of one beam for
each day afterwards, said Wang Renyi, an official with the
Guangzhou Salvage Bureau in charge of the salvage of the ship.
The beams were made airtight and hollow to be buoyant, Wang
said. Two floating bags are tied on each end of one beam and start
inflation when the beam goes under water to generate more buoyant
Salvage operations on the ship Nanhai No.1, produced during the
Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), started in May as a specially
designed steel structure was lowered into the sea near Yangjiang,
in south China's Guangdong Province.
The rectangular structure was pulled by a 900-ton tug to a
position just above the ill-fated ship.
According to the salvage plan, the upper part of the steel
structure will be brought out of the seawater together with the
sunken ship, while the lower part will stay on the seabed
Experts spent three years planning the salvage, considered a
world first for underwater archaeology. Archaeologists normally
excavate the relics on the sunken boat first and then salvage the
The salvage workers had planned to start placing beams under the
ship on August 3. The job, however, was delayed by typhoons Pabuk,
Sepat, and Wutip.
The sunken ship was accidentally found in 1987 by the Guangzhou
Salvage Bureau and a British underwater salvage company. The first
ancient vessel to be discovered on the "Marine Silk Road" in the
South China Sea, it was named Nanhai No.1, which means South China
The ship is located some 30 nautical miles west of Hailing
Island of Yangjiang City, and lies at a depth of more than 20
meters. About 30 meters long, the vessel is the largest Song
Dynasty cargo ship ever discovered.
Archaeologists estimate that there are probably 60,000 to 80,000
relics on the sunken ship.
It is believed that a successful salvage of the sunken ship will
offer important material evidence for restoring the "Silk Road on
the Sea," and for the study of China's history in seafaring, ship
building, and ceramics.
Workers have cleared away 25 tons of silt around the sunken ship
and have brought out of the seawater 390 cultural relics. They
include green glazed porcelain plates, tin pots, and shadowy blue
(Xinhua News Agency September 5, 2007)