19 May 2005

Ship's rudder found on shore after 160 years

A ship's rudder estimated to be more than 160 years old was airlifted from Sunset Beach in Cape Town's Table Bay on Tuesday and is to be exhibited at the Iziko Maritime Museum once it has acquired a large enough treatment tank in which to preserve it.

The large piece of wreckage washed up on shore about a week ago.

The rudder weighs between 500kg and one ton and it needed to be transported by helicopter to keep it as intact as possible.

"The find is quite amazing. It's so old and yet it's so intact," said Iziko Maritime Museum spokesperson Jaco Boshoff.

"The copper plates used to protect the wood were invented in 1837, the shape of the rudder and the design and carving methods take us back to the 1840s.

"The rudder could not be moved by 4x4 because the piece is delicate and we couldn't risk the vehicle's jerking movements damaging it."

The salvage was carried out by Smit Marine and CHC Africa Helicopters, with both companies donating their services.

The rudder is to be stored at the Smit Marine yard until a suitable treatment tank has been found.

"This rudder has to be cared for and treated in a special tank, which we are trying to get," Boshoff said.

"It will be dried out slowly to prevent cracking and then it will be exhibited in the museum.

"This process could take more than six months."

The SA Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) will be working with Iziko to make sure that the rudder is cared for and that its historical significance is established.

SAHRA maritime archaeologist Jonathan Sharfman said: "We recently implemented a national survey of underwater heritage and this find could help us with discovering more hidden treasures of historical significance in the Sunset Beach area."

Sharfman said there were plans to undertake a more extensive investigation of the area.

Less than two years ago a container vessel, Sealand Express, ran aground at Sunset Beach during a winter storm.

"That vessel may have disturbed underwater wrecks and somehow caused the rudder to break free and make its way to shore," Sharfman said.

Source: www.iol.co.za


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