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The merchant vessel Vrouw Maria was on her way from Amsterdam to St. Petersburg when she sank in the outer archipelago of Nauvo in the autumn of the year 1771. The wreck was found in a side scan sonar search organised by the Pro Vrouw Maria Association in the summer of 1999. Already in the 1970’s, Dr Christian Ahlström had found archive information about the wrecking of the ship. The most central source for researchers is the ship's protest, which was found in the municipal archives of Turku. The document consists of e.g. an extract of Vrouw Maria's logbook. According to the entries of the Sound customs house in Denmark, Vrouw Maria was with a cargo of sugar, dyestuff, zinc, cloths, and single items whose customs fee seems unusually high. Vrouw Maria now has a reputation of a treasure ship because her cargo consisted of art treasures bought by Russian aristocrats and Catherine the Great. Among the works of art were for example Dutch paintings from the 17th century.
The wreck lies at the depth of app. 40 meters, and the 26-meter hull is intact. The lower parts of both the masts are standing up. The Maritime Archaeology Unit (earlier the Maritime Museum of Finland) conducted non-destructive field research at the site in 2000-2004. The researchers monitored environmental conditions, photographed and videotaped the hull and the interior of the wreck, and took measurements of the wreck for a three dimensional model. So far only a few items have been raised. In 2001-2004 Vrouw Maria represented Finland in an international research and safeguarding project on underwater cultural heritage (The MoSS Project). The project was funded by a European Community programme called The Culture 2000.
The National Board of Antiquities and the owner of the area, a representative of Finnish forest administration, came to an agreement on a protected area around the wreck of Vrouw Maria in the spring of 2000. The aim of this area is to safeguard the wreck and the information it has for forthcoming investigations. The wreck is an exceptionally well-preserved historical piece of underwater cultural heritage that has much to give for different branches of science. By the help of the protected area, the structures of the wreck or the artefacts do not disappear or get damaged undocumented, and the wreck site can be investigated in the future as intact as possible.
Inside the protected area anchorage and diving are strictly prohibited unless they are involved in rescuing a ship or a person in distress, or diving or research work guided by the National Board of Antiquities. The protected area can be crossed by a boat.
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Last updated 29.10.2015
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