slide show

Diving the wreck of the HMS Viscount Melbourne in 2012

When you own your own sailboat, you get to do things your average tourist can only dream of. I met Hans and Rose Berekoven at the Miri Yacht Club. They discovered the wreck of the HMS Viscount Melbourne. It was a 3-masted schooner on the way to China. Have a look at what we found inside.

HMS Viscount Melbourne

Hans aboard Southern Sun SV

Rose my dive partner to bring up artifacts

Believe it or not Hans and Rose found an account of the wreck by researching old newspapers in the library. There were enough clues in the paper that they were able to pinpoint the reef and sail to it and find it almost immediately.

I joined the crew after first gaining the couples trust that I wouldn't dive the site on my own and try and steal artifacts.

On my first dive with them I noticed everyone just went around the wreck picking up objects that were big enough to see and small enough to place into a basket. As a result they had tons and tons of bottles. Tons and tons of food was preserved and stored in glass bottles for the trip.

There was of course wine and beer bottles too.

Some of the wine bottles were easily traced to the winery in France where they were produced. Thomas Jefferson used to drink this same wine. I decided to change things and purchased several larger baskets with smaller holes. I then convinced them to focus on the mud and just bring up everything in the mud even if you couldn't see it. Then on board, we washed the mud carefully with strainer looking for smaller items.

That is how we began to find small pieces like the one above. Just imagine our excitement when each new basket yielded another piece of this plate. I then searched and searched china patterns and was able to find an exact match. That is the picture on the left. Despite the fact it appears to be Chinese pottery, it isn't. Instead this is called a "willow" plate and it was mass produced in Swansea.

Another find was a half-penny. This helped us further date the wreck.

Yes there are cannons too. However, they were too big for us to bring to the surface on a sailboat. What we were unable to find was the ship's bell. The bell should have the name of the ship on it for absolute proof. Perhaps the survivors took it off the vessel before it sank, or perhaps the wrong American Hans placed his trust in stole it from the wreck.

We will be going back to Miri Malaysia and will view the artifacts and progress on a maritime museum Fall 2018. Hopefully, Hans and Rose will be there too.

YouTube video of Rose describing our finds.


See you aboard!
Captain Philip and Noli

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