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Willem Barentsz Ship Remains Discovered Near Arkhangelsk
October 29, 2012 17:50

Christiaan Julius Lodewyck Portman - The Death of William Barents (1836)

The final day of the expedition to discover the sunken carvel of the Dutch explorer Willem Barentsz brought unexpected finds. Four fragments of frames from the carvel's bottom were lift from the ocean. 

 The expedition led by Dmitry Kravchenko was funded by the Russian Geographic Society and the Support Fund for North and Arctic Exloration. The "Aldan" ship spent a month at the Russian Arctic National Park in the Icy Haven bay, by the Spory Navolok Horn. The crew consisting of underwater archaeologists, divers, hydrophones, a geophysicist and the national park staff aimed to establish that a natural geomagnetic anomaly existed not far from the shore. They then were hoping to find the evidence that this anomaly was nothing other than the remains of Willem Barentsz carvel that sunk here at the end of 16th c.

Dmitry Kravchenko has been searching for Barentsz's carvel since 1970s. All objects found in his early expeditions were transferred to Arkhangelsk Regional Museum. This time, he explains, the weather conditions went in the way of his research. High waves, in particular, made working with magnetometer and side-scan sonar almost impossible, due to errors. Of 11 days of planned site works the crew were only able to use 5. Yet in the end Kravchenko did discover what turned out to be four fragments of frames from the carvel's bottom. Small parts were taken for further investigation by radiocarbon analysis at the Institute of Geology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. 

Kravchenko personally is absolutely confident that the found remains belong to Barentsz's carvel: the frames were most likely made of oak that did not grow in this part of Russia, and nails and their fixes also indicate the Dutch manner of ship-building. 

Kravchenko dreams to fully reconstruct the carvel, which obviously first needs to be found. The discovery of bottom frames suggests that previous calculations as to where the carvel sunk were incorrect. As these frames are unlikely to have floated too far away from the rest of the ship, future works will have to take place not far from the spot where frames were found. Whereas previously explorers relied on various instruments' readings, they now have some more substantial evidence to use. 

Next year the expedition will start earlier and aim to find the carvel's remains, to establish their state and decide on the methods of lifting the ship from the water. The question of carvel's lifting remains open, as it is unclear what may happen to the carvel's parts that remained under the water for over 400 years. If the carvel is found, it is most likely to be photographed and filmed first. 

Dmitry Kravchenko's project is documented at

Author: Julia Shuvalova

Tags: Russian science Willem Barentsz Dmitry Kravchenko expedition   

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