Tuesday, December 24, 2013


In 1982, mussel fisherman Leon Searle discovered a sunken ship in Midge Bay, one of more than 100 historical vessels found in New Zealand's treacherous Kaipara Harbour. He contacted local man Noel Hilliam, who dived down the following year and salvaged 2 pieces of wood. As the chunks - identified as teak and the tropical hardwood Lagerstroemia – have been languishing at the Dargaville Museum, Hilliam has been developing a theory. He proposes that the ship travelled down from Portugal, stopped in Indonesia for repairs, and made it to New Zealand. But remarkably, dendrochronology by Jonathan Palmer and repeated carbon testing by Waikato Radiocarbon Dating laboratory indicate that the ship sunk after Abel Tasman discovered the country in 1642, but before the accepted history of the first European contact in the person of Captain Cook in 1769. In a soon-to-be-published paper, Palmer cites Cook's journals, in which the explorer documents accounts by local Maori of cannibalizing earlier European visitors. This may explain the fate of the passengers and crew of the vessel, which is estimated from the age of the sap wood and the heart wood, and the time for curing, building, and sailing, to have sunk in 1705. Palmer credits the museum, directed by Don Elliot (IMAGE ABOVE), for the effort it has put into conserving the ship's remains: "We wanted them to feel proud for having gone to the trouble of meticulously storing a piece of wood out the back because 999 out of 1000 people would think it's a waste of time but now it could be a key piece that might provide history."

1 comment:

  1. I've really enjoyed your blog again this year - ty for posting! Merry Christmas


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