Historic Salvage Attempts
from the Accident in 1745 and Later

Immediately, at the time of the foundering

If the cargo had actually arrived in Gothenburg, the ship would have brought in 2.5 million Swedish Daler Silvermynt, an enormous amount of money at that time. As a comparison, the monthly salary of a sailor among the crew would have been around 2 Daler Smt.

The Gothenburg shipwreck was located close to the Gothenburg harbor and everything on board that could be salvaged was probably also salvaged soon after the foundering in 1745 and during the following year. According to contemporary documents in the City archive, wet tea was dried in available baking ovens in the city "after which an unprecedented invasion of huge, newly hatched, roaches invaded the city". Since the porcelain chests were according to standing orders lining the bottom of the hull a considerably amount if not all was left where it were, under tons upon tons of soggy tea, 'gallingall' and broken chests.

On 28th November 1745 we know that 30 tons of tea, 80 bundles of silk brocade and 'various porcelain' was auctioned off. As a result of efforts made in 1746 and 1747, apparently all the cannons were recovered but only a small part of the cargo, which by then was severely water damaged. It seemed like altogether about 8% of the 370 tons of tea aboard the ship was salvaged.

During the years to follow most of what could be salvaged was taken up and auctioned. From available documents it would seem that beside one tenth of the tea cargo a fifth of the other cargo were salvaged. Still, so large were the profits of the East India trade that this was enough to pay for the costs including the loss of the ship and still give 14½ % in dividends to the participants.

Eventually the long lost Declaration of Maritime Accident was found and is shown in its entirety below.

This document was submitted to the City Court of Gothenburg on September 19, 1745, by Erik Moreen, the Captain of the Gotheborg, explaining what happened in the accident and how the initial salvaging proceeded. This document had been missing during the entire excavation period and was just recently found mixed in with some other court papers in the City Archive. It provides an interesting firsthand account of how the salvaging was conducted and also explains why the expedition was not a total loss.
Original text in Swedish below

Declaration of
Maritime Accident, 1745

This document was submitted to the City Court of Gothenburg on September 19, 1745, by Erik Moreen, the Captain of the Gotheborg, explaining what happened in the accident and how the initial salvaging proceeded. This document had been missing during the entire excavation period and was just recently found mixed in with some other court papers in the City Archive. It provides an interesting firsthand account of how the salvaging was conducted and also explains why the expedition was not a total loss.
Original text in Swedish below

Explanation of the accident that occurred to the East India Company's returning ship, Gotheborg, which sailed from the city of Gothenburg the 14th of March, 1743 and arrived at Canton, China, on the 4th July 1744 and from there, departed again the 10th of January 1745.

During this our return trip from China, we left the 4th of September recently, by sail from Dover, England, with an English pilot by the name of John Harley. The southeasterly wind was continued into a fresh breeze so the pilot could not be set ashore but was forced to accompany the ship. In the morning of the 12th of September, at 4am, we were under the lighthouse of Skagen and at 5, we set sail taking course towards Wingö, the wind southwesterly and westsouthwest. At 9 am before noon, well in advance, we made a signal with the flag and fired a canon shot to signal for a pilot, who also came onboard. And then as usual, in the pilot's water, the command was left to the pilot, named Caspar Matthison. At 10 am we had Wingö sail mark to our side and were advancing under the command of the pilot with fair wind and nice clear weather within the archipelago. Until we one quarter of a mile before Ny Elfsborgs castle, where the ship, with taken in main sail, struck a rock in the middle of the water at 14 ft below the surface, one that the pilots call "Knipla börö". The impact was so hard that the fore that hit the rock was lifted 4.5 ft up out of the water, and since the ship after all appearances, had got a hole in the side, it soon began to take in water. The water was soon 20, 30 and within a few minutes, 60 inches high inside the ship.

The accident was announced with canon shots and common signals, after which a large boat arrived with men from the East India Company's ship Riddarhuset that had come in immediately after us, and soon Captain Lieutenant Lars Bogman of the Admiralty also arrived with people and a boat, plus then many other boats so that rapidly an anchor was taken out through the Cabin window to if possible winding the ship off the rock, which however failed. With several of the East India Company's directors onboard, pumps were put down to try to empty the ship of the rapidly rising water. All efforts were spent on pumping as well as the lightening of the ship by removing all cargo found on top and between the decks into several yachts and onto an English ship that arrived at 5 pm. The pilot was put under arrest in the fortress due to his great carelessness.

Through the East India Company's directors' hurried actions, by and by, more help and people, yachts and ships arrived, all fetched from the city. The damage was however so great that the ship could not be kept afloat with 4 pumps. Every third hour, the water rose inside the ship by 1 ft. In the morning of the 13th, there was already 10 ft of water inside the ship, so there was no longer any hope to get the ship off the ground. The only thought then was to salvage the cargo, which we continued with to the best of our abilities with the help of the assigned temporary officers of the company Captain Israel Ekman and Jacob Maule, the Lieutenants of the Admiralty Mr. Cronstedt and Petter Westman and helmsman, Freidrick Petterson besides many more under officers, ships crew and workers sent onboard, the salvaging continued day and night, with no rest or stopping.

Since one had a reasonable reason to fear the toppling of the ship, on the 14th, one was forced to cut the masts, after which the salvaging continued until the morning of the 16th when the aft had come under the water and no more cargo without appropriate diving equipment could be salvaged and the Commissary Samuel Bagge of the Salvaging Society arrived to receive the wreck.

What until then has been possible to salvage have been sent under the care of one officer and under trustworthy men's viewing on one and each of the salvaging ships, and is under supervision deposited into the East India Company ship Fridericus Rex Suecia, where it has been received by Captain Petter Dens and by him and several appointed officers are being taken care of. From what remains and can be salvaged from the water, the Salvaging Society has and is still busy with, which thus will be upon them to account for.

However and since this lost ship Gotheborg unfortunately is so totally wrecked that no salvaging of the ship itself can be made, we have got to declare the innocence of the officers and as well as to the East India Company as well as to the owners and for other people's safety, this truthful story about the accident, have been made to which nobody else than the pilot, Casper Matthison, through his great carelessness was guilty of and, that this is the case and has happened we by our own hand, sign this declaration, with vivid oath and certification.

Erik Moréen, Captain
Götheborg, 19 September 1745

Translation by Jan-Erik and Cheryl Marie Nilsson, 2006

Sjöförklaring - Original text in Swedish

"Förklaring öfwer den olyckan som träffat Ostindiska Compagniets retour skiepp Götheborg, whilket afseglat från staden Götheborg den 14 Marty 1743, och ankommit till Canton i China den 4 Julii 1744, samt derifrån åter afseglat den 10 January 1745.

Under denna wår återresa från China ginge wi den 4 september nästledne under segel från Dowerö i Engelland med en engelsk Lods wid namn John Harli, winden Syd Ost som Continuerade med styf Cooltje, så at Lotzen ej kunde frånbordsättas, utan blev tvungen att följa med Skieppet. Den 12 September om morgonen klockan 4 låge Wi under Skagerns fyr, och klockan 5 satte wi segel til, sättandes wår Cours på Wingö, winden Syd Wäst och Wäst Syd Wäst, klockan 9 före middagen giordes i god tid Signal med flaggan och skiutande at undfå Lotz, hwilken ock ombord komm; och sedan efter wanligheten uti Lotzmans farwatn, hela Dispositionen ombord war lemnet till denna ombord komne Lotzen Caspar Matthison benämnd, hade wi klockan 10 Wingö bak å sidan, och awancerade under Lotzens anförande, med fogelig wind och wackert klart wäder inom Skären, tils 1/4dels mil när Ny Elfsborgs fästening, hwarest Skieppet med beslagit storsegel, stötte på en mitt i fahrwattnet och 14 foot under watnet liggande klippa, den Lotzarne kalla Knipla börö; Stöten war så hård, att föreskieppet som hade råkat klippan lyfta sig 4 1/2 foot utpå watnet och som det efter all apparence fådt håhl på sidan, begynte det straxt att intaga mycket watn, som wid pumpens peglande (vattenståndsmätare, red anm) förmärkts på att watnet war straxt till 20, 30 och inom få minuter till 60 tums uti Skeppet.

Faran blef med styke skott (kanonskott, red anm) och wanliga singnaler kundgiord hwarpå genast det i följe warande Ostindiska Retour Skeppet Riddarhusets Echaloup (slup, red anm) med folk ankom, och straxt der efter infann sig äfwen Ammiralitets Capitain Lieutenanten Lars Bogman med manskap och Echaloup, jemte många andra båtar så all skyndesam anstalt förfogdes med ankarets utförandeakter åt genom Cajute fenstret till att om möjeligt woro försöka at afwinda Skieppet från klippan hwilket dock befandts omöjeligit, samt det efter med flere af Ostindiska Compagniets herrar Directeurer ombord skickade pumpors nedsättiande, till att utpumpa, det uti keppet som ofwan förmäldt är hastigt tiltagande watnet, at arbetades med all flit så med pumpande som Skeppets lättande genom det öfwerst och emillom däks liggande godset bergande uti åtskilliga Jakter och ett engelskt fartyg som klockan 5 efter middagen utur siöen ankomm. Lotzen blev emedlertid för sin stora oförsicktighets skull uti arrest på fästeningen insatt.

Igenom Ostindiska Compagniets herrar Directeurers skyndesamma föranstaltande, erhölz efter handen mera hielp och folk, Jakter och fahrtyg, som bemälte herrar Directeurer låto från staden och strömen utbuxera och som emedlertid skadan befants så stor att Skeppet med fyra pumpar ej kunde hålla läntz emedan watnet uti Skeppet steg emillom hwar tredie tima en foot, så at den 13 om morgonen redan war 10 foot watn uti Skeppet, så war aldeles ingen förhopning at bringa Skieppet af stället, utan man nödgades att allena war betänkt, på godzets bergande hwar med och i möjeligaste måtto Continuerades, med tillhielp af Compagniets tilförordnade officerare, herrar capitairne Israel Ekman och Jacob Maule, ammiralitets lieutenanterne herrar Cronstedt och Petter Westman, och Styremannen Friedrick Petterson utom många flere underofficerare, skieppbesätningen och ombord skickadt arbetsfolk, och arbetades med bergandet dag och natt utan hwila eller upphörande.

Och som man hade skälig orsak at frukta för Skieppets kantrande ty nödgades man den 14:de hujus (dennes, red anm) at kappa masterna, hwar efter med bergandet efter yttersta möjelighet widare Continuerades intill den 16 om morgonen, då akterskieppet låg aldeles under watn, och ej mera gods utan tienliga bergnings istrumenter, stod at erhållas och bergas, då dyckeri Societens fullmäktig herr Comissarien Samuel Bagge ankom och wraket emottog.

Hwad till den tiden kunnat bergas, hafwer under en officerares wård, och till förlitellige mäns upsyn på hwart och ett af de bergande fahrtyger bliwit skickat, och under förman inlagt uti Ostindiska Compagniets Retour Skieppet Fridericus Rex Suecia hwarest det af Capitainen petter Dens bliwit emottagit och af honom jemte flere honom tillordnade officerare wårdas, och med resten som utur watnet bergas kan, har dykeri Societetens förbemälte fulmäktig med sina underhafwande warit och är ännu sysselsatt, hwilket således på des redogiörande ankommandes warder.

Emedlertid och som detta förolyckade Skeppet Götheborg tywärr är så aldeles förloradt at ingen rädning af det samma ske kan, så hafwa vi, så wäl til wederbörande officerares oskulds intygande, som till Ostindiska Compagniets och alla uti detta förolyckade Skieppet intresserades samt flere wederbörandes säkerhet bordt göra denna sanfärdiga berättelsen, om den timmade olyckan til hwilken ingen annan än lotzen Caspar Matthison genom sin stora oförsichtighet skuld warit till wisso hwar af och at således som berättat är, tillgångit, Wij detta egenhändigt underskrifwit och weder redo äro, denna Declarationen med liflig Eed at intyga.

[Erik Moréen, Captain]
Götheborg den 19 September 1745"