Sunday, October 23, 2011

Blast from the Past: Russians to Raise Treasure Ship

No kidding, this came up in a news search today at Archaeologica:

What the hell is taking Putin so long to broadcast on Russian public television the recovery of Catherine the Great's treasures?  Should we not by now have been deluged with images of  Putin from 2008 (ahem) diving beneath the frigid waters, not even in a "bell" suit, just holding his breath down 135 plus feet and feeling around for treasure with a flashlight attached to his head with a rubberband...

Article from the

Russia to raise shipwreck containing Catherine the Great's treasures

Russia plans to raise a schooner that sank off the coast of Finland in 1771 with gold, precious porcelain and Dutch paintings for Empress Catherine the Great aboard.

10:23PM GMT 18 Nov 2008
[Is this like Russian April Fools' Day???]

The Frau Maria was commissioned by Catherine the Great to transport precious porcelain, gold, silver, bronze and 27 paintings by Dutch masters for her art collection, which became the basis for the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg.

But the ship was struck by a storm in October 1771 and sank 41 metres (135 feet) off the coast of what was then Sweden, Tarasov said.

Artem Tarasov, head of the Rescue of National Cultural and Historic Valuables fund, said the project would take two years.

"We would like to say that within two years all necessary measures will be taken and in 2010 we will be able to finally see what secrets this ship holds." There is hope that the paintings have not been ruined, he said. [Yeah, right.]
Catherine herself sent off several expeditions in vain efforts to raise the schooner, which may indicate that the paintings, whose total cost could be up to 100 million euros, were packed into leaden boxes sealed with wax and could yet be salvaged, Tarasov said.

Experts from Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands determined that soft ropes would be slipped beneath the well-preserved schooner, which would then be brought to dry dock to avoid unnecessary danger during the treasure hunt.  Hermitage deputy director Georgy Vilinbakhov said the museum was ready to welcome the precious cargo, which would arrive nearly 240 years late.  "We will work throughout 2009 to understand what we may face if that cargo is found and there is something to restore," he said.

It was not immediately clear, however, if Russia would be able to claim the entire cargo, even though it is technically the legal successor to all property of the Russian empire.

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