How many enthusiastic amateur divers have dreamed of finding a submerged, wrecked galleon, stacked with gold and silver, to say nothing of jewels, especially on our coast? Little hope on many counts I fear. Just like the rest of us - a dream.
There have been very special rewards for some treasure hunters, where wrecks have been discovered and rescued. For instance, most will remember vessels such as the Diana, a British boat sailing between India and China in 1870; the Vung Tao sunk in 1690, the cargo was salvaged in 1992. Probably the best known was the Nanking cargo from the Dutch East Indiaman, Geldermalseskn, sunk in 1792 and discovered and excavated in 1985/86, to the most recent, the Tek Sing cargo sunk in 1822 in the strait between Sumatra and Borneo on route to Java.
Apart from the cargo which constituted tens of thousands of pieces of blue and white porcelain produced in China, some of which were of unique design, this gigantic junk also had on board upwards of 1800 passengers. During the capsize some 1600 perished.
The man who has made an art form of salvaging historic wrecks is responsible for this latest venture. His spirit of adventure and sheer professionalism in rescuing this and other vessels and their cargo is now well documented.
All Captain Mike Hatcher's finds have been sold at auction. The Nanking in Amsterdam, the Tek Sing in Stuttgart, so that there was the widest distribution possible.
It is true you will pay a premium to buy an item from any of the sunken cargoes but for this you have bought a piece of documented history and, if it is anything to go by, local specialist, Roger Bradbury of Coltishall, says that items sold in the 1980's from the Nanking cargo which were priced at £50, are today selling for £250.
Each item of treasure bears its own authentication label with the auctioneers name and Lot number.
At Coltishall Roger has a wide range of bowls, vases and plates from various cargoes with books and videos on the historic search for the treasure.
Remember, if you do purchase any pieces from the cargoes, never lose the label identifying it as such, for, if you do, down the drain goes the label and part of the history.
Photographs : Roger Bradbury, Coltishall - 01603 737444
The Book : The Legacy of the Tek Sing by Nigel Pickford and Michael Hatcher
Published by Granta Editions, price £25. ISBN 85757 069 3
Video : The Treasure Hunter by Inca London Ltd
© November 2001