Last modified:
23 Oct 2012

What's new

23 Oct 12: The current website of the MAU is at

31 Mar 05: Newsletter 5 from the Galle Heritage Reconstruction Project, in Acrobat format, is here.

7 Feb 05: Latest news from the Galle Heritage Reconstruction Project, in Acrobat format, is here.

14 Jan 05: The MAU staff will return to Galle, and a temporary office will be established. An early priority is the conservation of retrieved artefacts, including the Avondster anchor and cannon which remain in the conservation tank, with chemicals replaced by seawater. Another priority is to assess damage to the heritage sites both in the fort and underwater. An expert from the department of conservation will be working in Galle for 2-3 weeks; we hope to have a first set of diving gear and survey equipment to assess the Avondster site and requirements for site preservation. Cultural projects can play an important role in the rebuilding and development of tourism and the economy in Galle. Donations or sponsorship would be much appreciated for dive gear, survey equipment, and notebook computers.

6 Jan 05: Pictures of the damage to the MAU have been posted temporarily at

2 Jan 05: Wonderful news: a brief SMS from Lotti & Praki says that they are OK. That area was badly hit, but we hope this will be the beginning of more good news for the Godavaya excavation team.

Lotti & Praki with the bell of the Hercules Lotti & Praki with the bell of the Hercules
Praki & Lotti: a more recent photo A more recent photo:
Praki Thomas & Charlotte J.Beichert Thomas.

31 Dec 04: Among the missing Ruhuna/Godavaya team members are Lotti and Praki, who worked with the Galle Harbour Project from its start in the early 1990s. Lotti trained the Sri Lankan team in diving, and Praki located most of the wreck sites in Galle harbour. They have for some years been living at a house in the lagoon at Godavaya, in Hambantota district. If anyone has news, please relay.

The team has been working hard to recover as much as possible at the MAU in Galle, but was intending to leave soon as the health situation is critical. Food & water are short; the CCF is despatching food and salary advances.

At Nooit Gedacht, two of the staff, Padma & Mallika, lost their homes, but all family members survived. Nooit Gedacht has become a casualty and relief centre, helped initially by a German doctor among the guests, now joined by a Czech doctor who arrived with journalists and has set up a health camp. A mobile unit of ten doctors and ten nurses arranged by the local NGOs Sarvodaya & Seva Lanka is also based at Nooit Gedacht. A German team was expected yesterday, to clean up the wells and purify water. There are now 17 inhouse guests and 21 casualties, some seriously injured, mentally and physically. Children in the refugee centres need milk or milk powder, instant food such as glucose, vitamins, biscuits, and candles. Para has not yet been to Galle, as a bridge is gone and a long detour is necessary. He is "dead tired after working almost 19-20 hours a day without proper sleep. Telephone rings in the night every 5 minutes."

30 Dec 04: Chandre, Palitha, Rasika & other members of the staff have visited the MAU site and salvaged some artefacts & equipment which have been stored in the VOC warehouse. Travel to Galle is very difficult, and the health situation there is deteriorating rapidly so they were intending to stay only briefly. The stone anchor and the Avondster cannon are still there. The Dutch Reformed Church, newly-restored, was unharmed. News from the Ruhuna Project / Godavaya excavation is so far not good.

29 Dec 04: The premises of the Maritime Archaeology Unit in Galle were destroyed in the tsunami of 26 Dec, and the collections and equipment are lost. Being a weekend, only one security guard was present. We are relieved to report that he survived - he was swept away but managed to catch hold of a tree - and that all members of the team are now confirmed to be safe, as are all staff of Nooit Gedacht. Local and international members of the team are communicating on the best ways to assist with the humanitarian disaster and rebuilding.

18 Dec 04: Added a page on the excavation, a page on the ceramics, and updated the finds page with pictures of the constable's box, a leather belt and shoe, and other details. Added to the Avondster site page a map showing location of the wreck in relation to Galle Fort and the river, and to the notes on the Dutch battery emplacement on the headland at the south of the bay, a photograph of what remains today.

21 Nov 03: Updated the finds page with pictures of the canister shot, chank shell and other recent finds. Added a photo of the galley on an astonishingly clear day to the Avondster site description. Added pages on the layout of a C17th East Indiaman, major areas of the Avondster site, and reconstruction of the rigging. Added the Avondster Project Report 2001-2002 (pdf file), and a new section of research in progress, which includes papers on VOC trade, management, life on board, & VOC healthcare.

19 Apr 03: The forensic report on the skull indicates that the owner was male, and about 30-40 years old.

1 Mar 03: Added details of the beardman jugs on the Avondster.

27 Feb 03: Added detailed records of the Avondster's history from the archives of the Dutch East India Company.

22 Feb 03: Corrected the Hawkins references on sheathing and hull treatment; observations are from Sir Richard Hawkins, written c.1620 and based on a voyage starting 1593, rather than from the voyages of Sir John Hawkins a few decades earlier. Apologies.

3 Feb 03: Added links to online maps of 'Johanna' (Anjouan, now Nzwani, in the Comoros) and 'Gombroon' (Bandar Abbas), important places in the history of the Blessing. Maps from

30 Nov 02: The cannon recovered with the starboard bow anchor is being cored, and a cannon ball and wadding have been found inside. Amended the information on Galle's jetties - only one was in use at the time of the Avondster; specialisation came later - and also the exact date of the Avondster's wrecking. Added contemporary accounts of the battle at Mannar, plus more old maps and artefact photos to the image archive. Added detailed notes on map VEL1056 which shows fortifications at Rumassala/Unawatuna. Changed the small bellarmine jar depicted on the finds page, to show the other jar of the pair found in March, which has an unusual face; added details of the medallions and faces on the jars, and a description of the grenade deconcreted in May.

27 Nov 02: Updated the Avondster story to incorporate information newly found in the Dutch archives. Added notes on methods of sheathing and hull treatment by Sir John Hawkins in the 1560s, including comments on the use of broken glass in the pitch for coating, as on the Blessing.

3 Nov 02: Updated and added to links, and also books.
Maritime Lanka makes no representation as to accuracy of material on external sites, and has no responsibility for linked content.

25 Aug 02: Added notes on the route sailed from Batavia to Galle by the Duyfken replica.

Kavan Ratnatunga has kindly drawn our attention to the useful Coins of Sri Lanka website, and to new pages on the Surat silver rupees from the Great Basses, which link to other pages of general interest, including accounts of the 1961 discovery of the wreck by Arthur C. Clarke and Mike Wilson, introductions to key periods of Sri Lankan history, and articles on important trading kingdoms such as ancient Ruhuna.

27 Jul 02: Added a paper by Lieut.Cdr. Somasiri Devendra on the ship graffiti at Natha Devale in Kandy.

21 Jul 02: Lieut.Cdr. Somasiri Devendra presented a paper at last month's UNESCO conference in Jamaica, entitled 'Designing a licensing system for maritime archaeology: the Sri Lankan experience'. It is downloadable here as an rtf file (rich text format, readable by most word processors). Part 1 is an introduction to archaeology in Sri Lanka; Part 2 covers the emergence of maritime archaeology in Sri Lanka, principles and procedures, legal precedents and emerging new thinking; and Part 3, the process and experiences in designing a licensing system.

Anchor in conservation tank with Chandre.
The anchor in conservation tank with Chandre

17 Mar 02: Added photo of the elephant breakfasting yesterday at Nooit Gedacht, plus minor additions to the finds page and image archive.

16 Mar 02: The starboard bow anchor has been prepared for lifting. An iron cannon which was concreted to that anchor has been raised. Pictures of the cannon, other new finds, etc have been added to the finds page. Added a map of the submerged rocks in Galle harbour; alternate pictures for some objects through the image archive; a picture showing use of dunnage; new names and photo on the people page.

3 Mar 02: Added a map of ports in southern Persia, showing Gombroon, Hormuz and Jask, and a shortlist of relevant books.

12 Feb 02: Added a redrawn version of a C17th Dutch map of Galle fort, showing key features more clearly than in our copy of the 1659 map, and more photos of Nooit Gedacht.

11 Feb 02: Added a note on what may have happened when the Blessing was ordered to be 'brimmed with broken glass'.

10 Feb 02: War in Kandahar, recession, preferential tariffs... news stories of the 1650's. Added a note on what East Indiamen were doing in Persia, where the Blessing was captured.

3 Feb 02: Modified the history of the Avondster to incorporate information from the English East India Company records. Added a chronology of her history 1641-1653 in the service of the English East India Company, when she was known as the Blessing, and a map including some of the ports visited.

6 Jan 02: Added maps reconstructing the last movements of the Barbesteijn and the site of the Dolfijn's wrecking, the plan of site G, and drawings of the stone anchors.

1 Jan 02: Added pictures of a careened ship, sounding leads on the Hercules site, and a madel paruwa in Galle harbour. Added more on Watering Place: a detail of the C18th map showing location, and a translation of the C18th description. Added a map of VOC trade products and shipping routes, a detail of the Galle-centred van Keulen map of Asia, and internet links.

23 Dec 01: Deleted the iron anchor picture from the Galle anchor site page. Apologies, the picture was from the Great Basses. Visibility like that in Galle harbour?

17 Dec 01: Cannonballs were found on Friday; added pictures of these and the sheeted rope on Avondster finds. Added a map of the archaeological sites in Galle harbour, a detail of the C18th map marking the site of the Hercules, a Hercules site plan, a picture showing how stone anchors were used, a picture of the Rangoon sinking in 1865, and new pictures on the people page.

The lab from the sea. Photo by Muthu.14 Dec 01: Excavation of the Avondster started in November 2001, and is expected to take about three years. The Maritime Archaeology Unit has a new diving base and conservation laboratory just outside the old gate of the fort, close to the Maritime Museum. (Our jetty is on a site used for centuries: the Avondster would have loaded her cargo very close by.)

The website has been overhauled, and it is intended to add new material as the investigation progresses. All additions and corrections will be noted on this page.

Please help us to improve the site: if you spot any errors, whether of fact or of web design, please tell us. Contributions relevant to the maritime history and archaeology of Sri Lanka, or to the ships wrecked in Sri Lanka, are welcome. Links to external sites are included when of potential interest to our readers; this does not imply corroboration or approval of their contents.

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