After 800 years at the bottom of the sea, a merchant ship loaded with porcelain and other rare antiques was raised to the surface Friday in a specially built basket, a state news agency reported.
The Nanhai No. 1, which means "South China Sea No. 1," sank off the south China coast with some 60,000 to 80,000 items on board, Xinhua News Agency reported, citing Wu Jiancheng, head of the excavation project.
Archaeologists built a steel basket around the 100-foot vessel, and it took about two hours for a crane to lift the ship and surrounding silt to the surface, Xinhua said. The basket was as large as a basketball court and as tall as a three-story building.
Green-glazed porcelain plates and shadowy blue porcelain items were among rare antiques found during the initial exploration of the ship. Archaeologists have also recovered containers made of gold and silver as well as about 6,000 copper coins.
The ship dates from the early Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). It was discovered in 1987 off the coast near the city of Yangjiang, in Guangdong province, in more than 65 feet of water.
The Nanhai No. 1 was placed on a waiting barge. It will be deposited in a huge glass pool at a museum where the water temperature, pressure and other environmental conditions are the same as where it has lain on the sea bed.
Feng Shaowen, head of the Yangjiang city cultural bureau, said visitors will be able watch the excavation of the ship through windows on the pool.
The recovery of the Nanhai No. 1 was originally scheduled for Saturday, but organizers decided to raise it a day early because of favorable weather.