Ottoman Empire

Southern Turkish exhibition brings Ertugrul ship secrets to light

From Hurriyet Daily News


A new exhibition in Mersin is displaying artifacts from the Ottoman frigate Ertuğrul, which sank while returning from an official visit to Japan but ultimately led to longstanding and friendly Japanese-Turkish relations.

One of the striking remains in the exhibition is a small perfume bottle which is believed to have been sent by the captain’s wife

Artifacts from a famous Ottoman ship that sunk off the coast of Japan more than a hundred years ago have now been put on a display in the southern province of Mersin, the first exhibition of its kind anywhere in the world.

The findings included pieces like a perfume bottle sent by the wife of the captain and believed to hold tears, a food boiler and other personal belongings from the sailors, said Bodrum and Karya Culture and Art Promotion Foundation, or BOSAV, Chairman Tufan Turan, the leader of an multinational expedition that has been working on the Ertuğrul shipwreck for the past three years.

The Ertuğrul was sent by Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamit II to Japan in 1889 but sank as it was returning. The accident, which killed 533 sailors, led to profound Japanese sympathy for the Turks and laid the foundations for continuing warm relations between Japan and Turkey.

Turan said they started working on the Ertuğrul shipwreck in 2007 and added that Turkish, Japanese, Spanish and U.S. researchers study the ship at Oshima Island, near Kobe, every January and February.

The research teams work underwater two hours a day, Turan said, adding that more than 6,000 pieces have been removed from the shipwreck since 2007.

The exhibition will visit other Turkish cities in 2011 before traveling to Japan for display.

Turan said some literary documents about the Ertuğrul indicate that the wife of Capt. Ali Bey, Ayşe, wrote a letter to her husband for his journey.

“In the letter, which is mentioned in the novel ‘Vuslata 5 Kala Gidip de Dönmeyenler: Ertuğrul’ [Those who did not return right before the reunion: Ertuğrul], there are statements like: ‘I sent a bottle for you, my tears are in it. I cried a lot when I was apart from you and gathered my tears in this bottle. Now I give this bottle to you, this is the biggest memory from me. Keep it until the end of your life. This is the symbol of my dedication and love to you,’” said Turan.

“Of course this is a novel but the writer examined documents about the frigate in detail. He even read these letters. When we found a small bottle in the frigate, we remembered these lines. The bottle drew great interest from the Japanese media,” he said.

“I prefer to look at the bottle through a romantic view, rather than technical. But we don’t know if this bottle is the one mentioned in the letter. It is not possible to make this clear but we are telling people our theories in the exhibition,” he said.

Among the pieces in the exhibition was also a whistle made of bone, Turan said. “We believe that it was purchased from one of the ports that the frigate visited or that it was given to one of the crew. But we also think that it may have been carved on the frigate.”

The exhibition can be seen at the Mersin Metropolitan Municipality Congress and Exhibition Hall.