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Nagasaki: 3rd Ship Dispatched by the Mongol Empire Possibly near Other Wrecks

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A model of a 13th-century Mongol ship at the Matsuura buried cultural property center in Nagasaki Prefecture on Aug. 31

NAGASAKI — A ship dispatched by the Mongol Empire to try to invade Japan in the 13th century might be located at the bottom of the sea near Takashima Island in Matsuura, Nagasaki Prefecture. It would be the third such wreck to be located after two ships that were discovered earlier.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

It is said that about 4,400 Mongol ships were destroyed in a storm during the second attack on the Kyushu region in 1281. Two of them have been found so far — one about 27 meters long was found in 2011 at a depth of 20 to 25 meters, and another with an estimated length of 20 meters was discovered in 2015 at a depth of about 15 meters.

More than 4,000 items have been found in the area, including an anchor, a bronze seal engraved with lettering in the Mongol Empire’s Phagspa script, and a spherical clay object believed to be an explosive shell.

The third ship may have sunk near where the second one was found. A sonic survey gave an unusual response, and a survey using rods to probe the seafloor also yielded positive results. A local board of education will conduct an excavation survey in the future.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Preservation work is underway on an anchor from a Mongol ship.

An anchor was salvaged in October last year, and efforts to preserve it are underway. Salvaging the hulls would be costly, and a facility to display them would also be required. For these reasons, the vessels remain on the seabed.

Because divers can safely spend only limited time underwater, recovering the vessels is essential for more detailed investigations to take place.