Archaeologists have discovered details which could confirm a shipwreck found in the Yellow Sea to be the cruiser Zhiyuan, sunk by the Japanese navy 121 years ago during the Sino-Japanese War.
After more than two months of underwater exploration and salvage, archaeologists believe they have identified a wreck found off the port of Dandong in northeast China as one of the Beiyang Fleet, defeated in 1894 by the Japanese navy in the Battle of Yellow Sea. The 50-meter wreck is about 10 nautical miles southwest of Dandong Port, at depth of around 20 meters.
Severely damaged in the battle, the ship is not well preserved, said team leader Zhou Chunshui. No cabins have been found intact and the engine room is still buried in the sand
During the past two months, divers have brought up over 120 items from the seabed, including some 60 copper coins, armaments and personal belongings. "We found a piece of a leather belt, insoles, and comb," Zhou said."They are too badly damaged to infer anything about their owners."
The archaeological investigation remains exclusively submarine and it has not yet been decided whether or when the ship will be salvaged, he added.
Team member Cui Yong said three porcelain plates had been retrieved from the wreck, clearly showing the characters "Zhi" and "Yuan", strong evidence of the identity of the ship. Three shells found have been confirmed as belonging to the Zhiyuan.
The Zhiyuan, built in the United Kingdom in 1887, was one of the most modern warships in the Beiyang Fleet. Captain Deng Shichang went down with his ship in Sept. 1894, refusing to abandon it when it was severely damaged in the battle. China lost four other ships in the battle, seen by many as the turning point in the war which China went on to lose.
The wreckage was first detected by Dandong Port Group in 2013 and reported to the local cultural heritage department which began investigations in November of that year, said Huang Meiyu, chief executive of the group. In 2014, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage started its own investigation. Dandong Port has cooperated with the local public security department to prevent plunder and their vessels patrol the site regularly, Huang added.
The mission is being jointly conducted by the National Center for Underwater Cultural Heritage and Liaoning Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology.