The wreck of a steamer discovered off the coast of Batticaloa has been identified by the Galle Maritime Archeology Unit (MAU) to be the largest such shipwreck discovered in Sri Lankan waters.
Official records indicate that the wreck is that of the steamer Sir John Jackson, which was wrecked on Brennus Shoal in the Navaladi Lagoon off Batticaloa on September 26, 1908, according to Galle MAU's Rukshan Priyandana.
The unit was initially alerted to the wreck by a local diver named G. Yogaraja, he added. The steamer weighs 4231 tons and had been built in 1905 by the Northumberland Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. It had been registered with the Westminister Shipping Co. Ltd in London.
According to official records, the steamer was enroute to London via Colombo from Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in Vietnam, carrying a cargo of rice and wheat, when it struck the Brennus Shoal and sank.
It is believed the Captain of the vessel had made a mistake and taken the steamer too close to shore while trying to use as a guide, the lamps put up by fishermen on shore in order to make their fishing activities easier.
The vessel had five boilers and two propellers. However, one propeller had broken off when the vessel sank and was found some distance away.
Maritime archaeologists said the shipwreck of another vessel was located in close proximity to the Sir John Jackson.
Over the course of time, the shipwreck had become a home for corals and many species of ornamental fish. It has been attracting local and foreign diving enthusiasts for some time and Priyandana said it has the potential to be developed as a tourist attraction for divers.
The Galle Maritime Archaeology Unit has so far located 17 shipwrecks along the country's eastern coast.