The Wreck of the Tek Sing

It was treasure

That dive, that day
May 12 1999
The True Star looming, listing on its side
Barely recognisable,
in the growing houses of fish

The porcelain on the wreck was incidental
The real earner would have been the tea
If she had ever made it home

But there inside, the picked bones lay

We saw the skulls first, then
the glow of porcelain in the dark
The second ‘unsinkable’
Commemorated with a single floating elephant tusk

We hovered above her, quiet, quiet
the quiet of the suicided lady
laid to rest on the sand,
weighed down by her jewels

And so we brought up the white gold
piece by piece, and
we thought about bringing the bodies too

But it was their place
And not our place to take them


About the Tek Sing, from Wikipedia:

The Tek Sing (Chinese, “True Star”)[1] was a large three-masted Chinese ocean-going junk which sank on February 6, 1822[2] in an area of the South China Sea known as the Belvidere Shoals. The vessel was 50 meters in length, 10 meters wide and weighed about a thousand tons. Its tallest mast was estimated to be 90 feet in height. The ship was manned by a crew of 200 and had approx. 1600 passengers. The great loss of life associated with the sinking has led to the Tek Sing being referred to in modern times as the “Titanic of the East”.[3]

On May 12, 1999, British marine salvor Michael Hatcher discovered the wreck of the Tek Sing in an area of the South China Sea north of Java, east of Sumatra and south of Singapore. His crew raised about 350,000 pieces of the ship’s cargo in what is described as the largest sunken cache of Chinese porcelain ever recovered.[4] Human remains were also found, but they were not disturbed as most of Hatcher’s crew, being Indonesian and Chinese, believed that bad luck would befall any who disturbed the dead.

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