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Century-old sunken ship discovered off Green Island

TAIPEI -- Researchers are working to determine if a sunken ship discovered off Taiwan's Green Island is a legendary Dutch ship that locals say ran aground there in the 19th century, a scholar said Wednesday.

The shipwreck appears to be the remains of a wooden vessel from the West dating to at least 100 years ago, according to Tsang Cheng-hwa, an academician at Academia Sinica, Taiwan's top research institute.

It was discovered on the seabed by an Academia Sinica underwater archeology research team led by Tsang in June 2013.

The design of the ship, which has been dubbed “Green Island No. 1” since its discovery, does not look like a traditional Asian vessel, Tsang told CNA, adding that is too early to say whether this is the ship that the 3,800 people of Green Island still tell stories about.

The local legend says that in the late 19th century, a Dutch trade boat ran aground there after hitting the reef. The crew is said to have fled instead of landing on the strange island, leaving their badly damaged ship behind, as well as three years' worth of rice for the residents of the island.

Tsang said his team discovered Green Island No. 1 with the guidance of local divers after launching an underwater search last year in the area.

In a preliminary study, he said, they found the wooden boards of the sunken ship were copper-plated, indicating that it was rather large and did not originate in Asia.

“Judging from the thickness of the wooden boards, it is unlikely to have been a small boat,” Tsang said.

But he said a report in Wednesday's United Evening News was too definitive when it said that the two are in fact the same ship.

It is challenging to examine the ship under water because its pieces have been scattered around the area, the veteran archeologist explained.

Most of the wreck has been covered by coral reefs, he said, but his team has been commissioned by the Ministry of Culture to conduct an in-depth probe.

Tsang speculated that the vessel may have been a merchant ship sailing north from the Philippines when it met with its fate.

While the ship's identity is still being investigated, Tsang suggested that in the meantime, it could be designated an underwater cultural heritage site.

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