Sunchi Reef

Goa's first steam engine shipwreck found

By Paul Fernandes - TNN


In a find that may prove important for research into the state's maritime trade, marine archaeologists of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) have found a steel-hulled steam engine shipwreck off the Mormugao coast.

The wreck could be of a British merchant vessel, the marine archaeologists have told TOI.

"This is the first discovery of a steam engine shipwreck in Goan waters," A S Gaur, marine archaeologist, NIO, said.

"As far as the time frame and technology is concerned, this is a specimen of a steam engine ship and could be of British origin of 1880s vintage," he added.

Scattered over a wide area in a shallow region called Amee Shoals, the four-decade research and more recent explorations of NIO's marine archaeologists bore fruit as they found the heavily salvaged vessel after two years of continuous research.

Elsewhere in the country, preliminary explorations of only two such shipwrecks were carried out in and around Minicoy in Lakshadweep islands, sources said.

"The stamps on the flanges and the name on the firebricks found on the site (off Mormugao) suggest British origin," Gaur said.

As naval vessels used water-tube boilers from 1880s onwards, the archaeologists aver that three Scotch boilers, almost 100 metres long, in this vessel make it evident that it was a large merchant ship.

Later, the oil-fired boilers were replaced by diesel engines.

The NIO archaeologists found three boilers made of wrought iron lying in a north-south direction, with the rear side pointing south. The triple-expansion type engine is still in fairly good condition, but the hull frames are severely corroded.

Was the vessel used by the British during the late 1880s for transporting steel? As an indication, the Portuguese had entrusted the task of laying the railway line from Mormugao to Castle Rock in 1887 to the British.

"No datable finds are on hand at the site to say when and how the wreck occurred though," Sila Tripathi, another NIO marine archaeologist who worked on the site off Goan waters said.

The preliminary report of the find was compiled by NIO's Gaur, Tripathi and Sundaresh. It was recently published in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, released twice a year from UK and USA.

Though studies by Lisbon-based Centro Nacional de Arqueologia Nautica e Subaquatica (CNANS) and by Boxer (1959) and Mathew (1988) have drawn up a list of Portuguese shipwrecks in Indian waters between 1497 and 1612, details of not a single site have been specified.

The studies merely said that the vessels had wrecked in shallow waters due to storms, sand bars and other hidden obstacles.


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