the Viscount Melbourne

Couple find 19th century shipwreck

From The Jakarta Globe

A ship that sank more than 150 years ago in Borneo waters after visiting Singapore has been found by two Australians.

Part-time marine archaeologists Hans and Roz Berekoven - who are married to each other - said their find was unlikely to yield any treasures as the ship had been a British cargo vessel, but it could add to knowledge of trade then.

'No gold,' Mr Berekoven, 64, said in an interview in Singapore. 'Just cutlery and a few bottles of really well-aged wine.'

In 1842, the Viscount Melbourne sailed from India en route to China and docked in Singapore to pick up supplies and passengers. It left with more than 70 people on board.

Three days after it left Singapore, the vessel was hit by a squall. It was left stranded on a coral reef.

The ship had to be abandoned as the cotton bales it carried would expand when wet.

One survivor wrote in his diary that the bales would 'swell and inevitably blow up the ship'.

The crew and passengers, evacuated in boats, spent weeks at sea before reaching nearby Borneo. Their journey was fraught with dangers such as bad weather and encounters with pirates.

Britain even sent a second ship, the Royalist, to look for the survivors. The Viscount Melbourne was left on the reef since it carried nothing of value. It eventually sank.

Newspapers in the region reported on its loss at the time but interest faded and the wreck was abandoned to its fate.

Then in 1950, The Straits Times published a series of articles on the survivors' struggle to reach Borneo. The series, titled 'A perilous sea voyage', gave the Berekovens the key to finding the wreck.