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The East Indiaman Götheborg III Project

Excavation - Reconstruction - Sailing - Objectives

The arrival to Canton (Guangzhou) in 2006

A thundering eight canon salute signaled the arrival of the historic replica trading ship, the East Indiaman Gotheborg III, to Canton in China in 2006. The origin of the salute was to demonstrate that the ship came in peace, by emptying the cannons.

Text and photo © Jan-Erik Nilsson and Cheryl Marie Cordeiro

The 17th of July 2006 the rebuilt replica of the first 'East Indiaman Gotheborg' arrived from Sweden to Bocca Tigris in the Pearl River delta outside Canton, to later pass the old anchorage at 'Whampoa' (Huangpo).

During the last part of the trip H.R.H. the King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden joined the crew on-board. The final destination during this stay was opposite the White Swan Hotel in the city of Guangzhou (Canton).

The project was based on the excavation of the original East Indiaman Gotheborg, which sat sails in early 1743 not to be heard of again before September 1745. On homecoming she unfortunately hit an underwater rock just outside the home harbor of Gothenburg with a huge crash, and sank. The salvaging of the immensely valuable cargo of silk, tea and a cargo of Chinese porcelain that I estimate to be of about 300,000 pieces of porcelain, started immediately.

Most of the cargo appears to have been brought up at once and during the following years. During the mid 19th century several attempts were made to salvage more of the cargo. These attempts seem to have been focused on the valuable oak in the hull and been quite rough on the remaining porcelain. James Keiller made a last salvage attempt in 1906-1908 bringing up around 3,000 complete porcelain items and a lot of shards..

Around 1986 a friend of mine, Anders Wästfelt set out to a proper excavation of the remaining finds which met with an enormous public interest thanks to Anders' skills as a public performer.

After the excavation, Anders and his wife Berit set out to organize a group of people that would be tough enough to bring a rebuilding project off its feet. Draw the ship, build a shipyard, and find sail makers, blacksmiths, shipbuilders and eventually someone who could sail the whole thing. I was happy to find a place in this early group as 'head of research' and in practice, assisting Anders in the conceptualization and marketing efforts in getting this project financed. To put it mildly, this was not an easy thing and I wish there will one day be a place where we could tell the whole story of all stunts we pulled off among the most powerful men in the world. Eventually the project got a life of its own, more and more big names did get involved and, eventually we our self were no longer needed.

I still lack words to describe the happiness and gratitude I feel towards all who all joined in to make this dream come through and I would like - again - to use this space to extent my gratitude to the tens of thousands of persons who have contributed during the entire start-up, building and sailing period and also the many important men who are no longer with us. I can still hear the determination in the sound of your voices in my mind. This was not an easy ride, but we made it, Thank you.

The background of this entire project is more fully covered in a section of its own, called 'GOTHEBORG III - THE PROJECT'. Here are some of the pictures from the most important event in the entire project, the actual arrival at Bocca Tigris in the Pearl River delta, just below Canton in China, the goal in many respects of my own personal dream.

The founding father of the entire project Anders Wästfelt, surrounded by members of the Friends organization and early sponsors arrives, while pushing the wife of one of our friends. All ladies properly dressed up in hats. Me, behind the camera. Photo: Jan-Erik Nilsson, 2006.

Along the red carpet hundreds of uniformed youths and school children are lining the way.

Outside the red carpet, lining the quay where the Gotheborg ship will touch, are hundreds of dancers.

The arrival have caused quite a stir among Chinese media.

Cheryl Cordeiro Nilsson

The founder and initiators of the project, Anders Wästfelt with his wife Berit in blue dress, to the right, surrounded by members of the Friends organization and early sponsors. Behind the camera, Jan-Erik Nilsson.

Berit Wästfelt in blue dress, awaiting the ship at quay side.

The press interviewing founders of the Gotheborg III project. Left Berit Wästfelt, to the right Jan-Erik Nilsson

Guangzhou TV was broadcasting live from the quay side when the East Indiaman Gotheborg III arrived

The East Indiaman Gotheborg Ship on the Pearl River, at Bocca Tigris.

H.R.H. the King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden disembark the Goteborg III and officially set foot on Chinese soil.

Jan-Erik Nilsson together with one of the earliest sponsors of the project, active since 1983 and the early days of the excavation project.

Utterly happy initiators of the project Anders Wästfelt, Jan-Erik Nilsson and Berit Wästfelt. - It is very rarely you can see such a strange dream come true in such a massive way like this. Lets say you think it would be fantastic to see an actual East Indiaman from the mid 18th century on the Pear River... and then make it come true. It does say something about the power of the mind.

Some of the heroes who actually sailed the ship.

It was interesting to not that under the sail cloth sun roof the temperature was quite reasonable and the soft wind was keeping it quite nice even under the tropical sun and some 30 centigrade in the shadow. Warm, yes but rather comfortable.

Anders and Berit Wästfelt on board the Gotheborg III at anchor at Bocca Tigris, Canton (Guangzhuo) in China.

All text and pictures copyright Jan-Erik Nilsson 2006, GOTHEBORG.COM