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The East Indiaman Gotheborg (1745)
This ship sank the 12th of September, 1745, outside the city of Gothenburg,
fully laden on returning home from China, with the home harbor clearly in
sight. Why and how this happened remains a mystery. Almost everything on
board that could be saved was salvaged almost immediately after the ship
foundered. According to old documents found in the City archives, wet tea
was dried in baking ovens all over the city "after which an unprecedented
number of huge, newly hatched, roaches invaded the city". The remaining
porcelain cargo was left where it was, under tons upon tons of river mud,
broken chests and soggy tea leaves.
During the mid 19th century several attempts were made to bring up as much
as possible of the old, now blackened oak hull. To this end some of the
divers seem to have used dynamite. During a salvage expedition carried out
by David Keiller and Carl Lyon during the summers of 1906-09, only around
3,000 undamaged porcelain pieces could be recovered within an area the size
of a football field, which was covered with shards. The full total of
undamaged eggshell tea sets salvaged probably numbered less than a few
During the period of 1983-92, an archeological, controlled excavation was
organized by Anders and Berit Wästfelt which resulted in several
exhibitions, a number of books, and a still ongoing project of building an
actual sailing replica of the Gotheborg. Of the porcelain about 8 tons of
shards and some 300 undamaged pieces were recovered. All of these are now
safely deposited in Swedish museums and will never be available for sale.
In 2003 the harbor authorities, in order to improve navigation, leveled the
site where the Gotheborg had foundered, and the depth of the harbor in that
area was increased from about 6 to 14 meters by dredging. All that was left
of the ship and its cargo is now either already salvaged or lost forever.
The number of authentic pieces from this, the only excavated Swedish East
Indiaman, is thus extremely low.
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