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Home arrow Human Interest arrow Quirky arrow Portuguese ship found buried in sand dunes
Portuguese ship found buried in sand dunes PDF Print
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Human Interest - Quirky
Written by Steve Marshall   
Saturday, 31 March 2007

Augers were used to recover samples buried three metres under the sand dunes

Strong rumours are circulating that contractors for Landco discovered evidence of an ancient shipwreck while taking core samples on Ngunguru Spit late on Friday. A team of marine archaeologists is currently excavating the site.

The site is well up in the sand dunes and not on the water's edge, suggesting that the shipwreck has been there for a long time. If analysis of the wood found shows that it is mahogany, this may indicate a link with the Dutch and Portuguese exploration ships of the 15th Century.

A search through the Register of New Zealand Shipwrecks has revealed that some "unusual dark timber" was found on the Ngunguru Spit in the 1950s, but that nothing else of particular interest was unearthed.

At the time, the discovery was linked to an account by a Captain John Mason:

Riding along the beach, my attention was attracted to the hull of a vessel embedded high and dry in the Hummocks, far above the reach of any tide. It appeared to have been that of a vessel about 100 tons burden, and from its bleached and weather-beaten appearance, must have remained there many years. The spars and deck were gone, and the hull was full of drift sand. The timber of which she was built had the appearance of cedar or mahogany. The fact of the vessel being in that position was well known to the whalers in 1846, when the first whaling station was formed in that neighbourhood, and the oldest natives, when questioned, stated their knowledge of it extended from their earliest recollection.

The discovery adds weight to the theories of Australian historian Peter Trickett - Portuguese visited New Zealand '250 years before Cook' (New Zealand Herald)

The marine archaeologists have tentatively identified the ship as a Portuguese caravel named "Primeiro de Abril", that was reported lost in the Pacific around 1407.

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