After Beazley & Smit

Ancient wreck discovered off the coast of China

In August 1987, the oldest wreck that had then ever been located off the Chinese coast was discovered by a team led by Lyle Craigie Halkett, Operations Director, originally from the Falklands Islands and Kevin Smith, Hydrographer from Southampton England. The company Marine Explorations and Recoveries PLC was based in Southampton. The Directors were Roy Martin, Nigel Pickford, and Lyle Craigie-Halkett.

M.E R. had a joint venture with the China Salvage Company, in reality a permit to work. The wreck that we were seeking was a Dutch vessel called the Rhynsburg, from the famous V.O.C. East India Company. When it foundered in a typhoon on 1 August 1772 Rhynsburg was carrying a cargo of tin ingots and silver from Batavia (Jakarta) to Canton. We located several wrecks, mostly 20th Century, and another rather older one.

After about six weeks the hydrographer reported what he called a seabed anomaly, something that on a muddy featureless seabed represented an object worth investigating. The Chinese divers spent a day on the site and found nothing, except what they described as a reef or mud mound. Lyle decided to take the ship into Guangzhou and tow back a salvage barge that our partners had said would be ready at a day’s notice.

Three weeks later we towed the barge out and removed several tons of mud from close to the target area. After washing the mud yielded more than 200 pieces of glazed porcelain pots. A large lump of metal ingots fused together, with a total weight of 130 lbs, possibly tin. Most significant was a solid gold chain about ¼ of an inch thick and about 4 feet long, with clasps representing two interlocking dragons.

Several months later we received a fax from the P.R.C. stating that the artefacts originated from the 12th or 13th Century (the Southern Song Dynasty, say about the time of Marco Polo). The gold chain was described as a 'gold plated brass chain' and the silver ingots were described as 'lead'. The true nationality of the shipwreck will probably never be known.

Saturday 22nd December 2007

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Nanhai Part Cargo Nanhai wreck Cargo A Nanhai Wreck Cargo B Nanhai Wreck Cargo C Clasp of the gold chain

 

1989 - 1991

Between 1989 and 1991 Roy Martin and Lyle Craigie-Halkett, through their company Marine Salvage Services, organised a clean-up of the four major whaling stations on the South Atlantic island of South Georgia. The island had been the site of the beginning of the Falklands conflict and the Argentinian scrap merchants acquisitions remained.

The operation was carried out in three phases. Firstly the two directors did a survey of the stations over Christmas 1989, from HMS Endurance. Then Lyle Craigie-Halkett, his son and two others returned in early 1990 to do the preparatory work. Finally using a UK government ship, RMAS Throsk, which they manned and operated, the main operation was carried out during the southern summer 1990/91

Many tasks were successfully completed, including:

5,000 tons of fuel oil were salvaged and removed from the island.

Large amounts of asbestos were entombed, as were many less hazardous materials.

Acids were massively diluted and pumped into the ocean.

Buildings of historical interest were made secure.

Several whale catchers (ships) were made safe and their bunkers removed.

Artefacts were brought back to the UK and distributed to museums.

The operations were completed on time and on budget and the ship was returned to the UK.

Grytviken, one of the stations, is frequently visited by cruise ships; one of the attractions being the Whaling Museum, first established by Craigie-Halkett and his team.

As there is no published account of this major environmental salvage operation, the two principals intend to use their own extensive records to provide one.

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South Georgia