Medieval Shipwreck Hauled from the Deep

ship-reconstruction
The ship had characteristic construction found in a medieval ship called a cog. Credit: Rijkswaterstaat, the Netherlands

A nearly intact medieval shipwreck has been hauled from the frigid waters of a Dutch river.

The boat was likely deliberately sunk by maritime engineers more than 600 years ago in an effort to alter the flow of the Ijssel River, an offshoot of the mighty Rhine River that flows through six European countries. The trading ship sailed at a time when the Hanseatic League, a group of guilds that fostered trade across Europe, dominated the seas.

“The fact that we were able to raise the Ijssel cog [a type of wooden vessel] in its entirety and in one attempt is a fantastic achievement by the entire team,” lead maritime archaeologist Wouter Waldus said in a statement. “The shipwreck can become a symbol of our rich maritime history, and I fully expect many people, both young and old, to be amazed by and start enjoying this ship from the Hanseatic period’s fascinating story.” [See Images of the Medieval Trading Ship and Reconstruction]

Surprise discovery

The boat was first discovered in 2012 at the river bottom during efforts to widen the flow of the Ijssel River. The massive ship was lying perpendicular to the river flow, along with a medieval barge and a punt, a specialized ship designed for navigating river deltas.

Over the course of the next three years, maritime archaeologists put in place a painstaking, meticulous plan to recover the ancientseafaring vessel. First, the team built a platform and crane on the river, then built a protective frame around the ship to lift it out of the water. After suctioning gunk from the area inside the frame, the archeological team created 3D images of the boat underwater. Only then were the team members ready to carefully lift the boat out of the water, using a basketlike structure made of straps, crossbeams and jacks. Each strap had its own motorized control to allow perfectly precise maneuvering in response to the forces experienced in the ship.

“This was an incredibly involved operation and was almost as impressive as the cog itself. The raising of the 20-meter-long [65 feet] ship was complex, in the middle of the river, near the navigation channel. Also, as a result of the fact, three different specializations had to work together here: an archaeological research team, divers and storage specialists,” said Ben Broens, an official with the Rijkswaterstaat, a water management bureau in the Dutch government, which helped oversee the salvage operation.

Medieval cog

It turned out the 55-ton (50 tonnes) ship was a medieval cog, a type of wooden vessel with a steep, straight ship prow and deck beams that stick out from the boat’s skin. Cogs were typically used in the late medieval period on international trade voyages. Many of the structural support elements, such as nails, were made of metal, meaning it was sturdier, and therefore easier to take out of the water without falling apart.

MORE of the story and another image / click image TOP of PAGE