Sunday, July 16, 2006

Sailing Boat Launched To Guide Swedish Merchant Ship "Gotheborg"

A wooden sailing boat modeled on an antique will accompany the replica of the Swedish merchant ship "Gotheborg" when it sails up the Pearl River in south China. The wooden boat, with a length of 48 meters, has been built using ship building methods used for ships on which Zheng He, a Muslim eunuch in the imperial Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), made seven voyages to places including West Asia and East Africa between 1405 and 1433. Built at a cost of 14 million yuan (about 1.75 million U.S. dollars), the boat, known as "Goddess of the South China Sea", is currently moored at Fangcun Pier in downtown Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province,through which the Pearl River, the third longest waterway in the country, flows, said Wang Xia, deputy general manager of Guangbo Cruise Boat Co.Ltd, one of the three sponsors for the wooden boat.
The bottom cabin of the boat has been turned into a museum where cultural items featuring Guangzhou's history as a maritime trading route. The legendary 18th century Swedish merchant ship "Gotheborg" made three voyages from Gothenburg to Guangzhou between 1743 and 1745, pioneering trade between Sweden and China. On its last return trip to Sweden in 1745, tragedy struck when it smashed into rocks about 900 meters from its destination after a 30-month voyage to China. It sunk with its entire cargo outside the port of Gothenburg.
The wreckage of the ship was recovered in 1984 and excavation was conducted from 1986 to 1992. The discovery led to the idea of rebuilding a replica of the ship by using the same traditional techniques and materials and sailing it to China again. Its replica, Gotheborg III, has an overall length of 58.8 meters and a width of 11 meters. It is carrying 80 crew members and some of the silk, porcelain, tea leaves and spices that went down with the original ship. It departed from the Swedish city of Gothenburg in October last year for China. It will reach Guangzhou next Tuesday and will stay in the province for one month.

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