All objects and cultural relics salvaged from the wreck of a British ship that sank near Dongyin Island (東引島) off Lienchiang County more than a century ago have to be registered and turned over to a designated agency for safekeeping, the Ministry of Culture said yesterday.
The ministry said in a news release that it sent a letter to the Lienchiang County Government on Monday urging it to take good care of the relics found in the SS Sobraon and demanding that all of the salvage work being done on the sunken ship be halted immediately to keep the wreckage intact.
The ministry said it admired the residents of the outlying Matsu Islands for their passion, which led to the discovery of the long-lost wreckage.
“Based on the consideration that underwater historic relics are assets shared by the public,” the ministry asked Lienchiang County to adopt measures to legally protect the objects according, and take complementary measures to further map out and protect the site.
Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai (龍應台) said the ship ran aground on April 24, 1901, and all crew members and passengers were saved. Even postal packages and luggage belonging to the passengers were removed, showing that all efforts had been made to save anything valuable from the ship.
She said that according to a complete investigation report delivered by a British court on June 18 and 19, 1901, the ship, scheduled to sail from Shanghai to London via Hong Kong, carried 280 passengers and crew members, as well as 800 tonnes of cargo.
Lung cited the report as saying that the captain calmly gave orders when the ship lost power and gradually sank.
All passengers were awoken, taken to the deck and offered coffee and cookies. Another two small ships sailed in different directions to seek possible destinations to which to evacuate them.
After all aboard were saved, the captain stayed behind to take care of the aftermath. He only returned to Britain after announcing abandoning the ship on May 8.
The captain probably saved all he could of the silk and other items that could be saved, according to the report.
According to historical records, the SS Sobraon was a passenger ship built in Scotland in 1900, with a displacement of 7,382 tonnes.
One year after the accident, the British government financed the building of a lighthouse on the island, which still exists today.
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