The F53.27 PORCELAIN WRECK (W-2) constitutes the remains of a 20-meter long sailing vessel, built in the first half of the 19th century from spruce and pine wood, which presumably came from the area of Gotland. The wreck consists of wooden structural elements, such as the remains of the ship's sides and her bottom part, sticking out up to 1.5 m above a sandy seabed. Staves of planking were laid edge to edge (carvel planking) and fastened to frames with coniferous timber treenails. Thickness of planking staves amounts to 5–8 cm and the width ranges from 9 cm to 31 cm. Structural fragments are divided into separate groups (objects).
Chronologically identified fragments of English faience date back to the period of 1845–1861. This is also the period when the vessel was presumably operated. It may be assumed that faience was transported by the ship which was heading towards Gdańsk port. Presence of the ceramics with the “J.C. & Son” marking, manufactured since 1854, indicates that the ship sank after 1853.
The W-2 Porcelain Wreck (F53.27) was discovered in 1965 by the crew of M/S Czapla, operated by Polskie Ratownictwo Okrętowe [Polish Vessel Rescue Service]. An object measuring 25m in length and consisting of two sides lying separately, sticking out up to 2m above the seabed, was found in the waters of the Gulf of Gdańsk at a depth of 17-18m. It was assumed that there were two wrecks situated next to each other. The name Porcelain Wreck is related to the ceramic artefacts (English Staffordshire faience) recovered from the wreck right after its discovery, the items were initially dated to the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries.
The wreck, entered into the register of the Polish Maritime Museum in Gdańsk (PMM) under the number W-2 (the second underwater object in the PMM register), could not be found again in the following years. The PMM search and research teams had made several ineffective attempts to find the wreck since the late 1970s. As a result of the problems with redetermination of its position, the object was named “a ghost wreck” and became one of the greatest legends of the Polish underwater archaeology.
The wreck is located at a depth of 16 metres, over 3.5 nautical miles to the east of the Gdynia-Redłowo headland.
In June and July 2013, PMM archaeologists and divers conducted underwater cataloguing works on the site. The purpose of the works performed on the F53.27 Porcelain Wreck site included compiling drawing, photographic, film and photogrammetric records (a photo-mosaic, three-dimensional model of the site), as well as determining the object's chronology based on dendrochronological studies and an analysis of the structure and artefacts recovered in the course of works.
The wood used for construction of the ship came from the Baltic Sea area, most probably from Gotland. Three wood samples contain underbark rings, which allowed for a precise determination of the year when the trees were cut down. The tests indicated two periods: the middle of the second decade of the 19th century and the late 1840s.
The results of the dendrochronological analysis can be interpreted in such a way that after 30 years of operation the vessel was repaired or older wood was used for her construction. The ship was built in 1848 or directly afterwards or in the second decade of the 19th century and then repaired in the mid-19th century.
Discovery of a brass snuffbox, manufactured in Sweden, in combination with the wood used for construction of the ship, which presumably came from Gotland, points to Sweden as the most probable area of the vessel's operation and construction.
The works conducted in 2013 resulted in recovery of the total of 120 artefacts, including 100 faience fragments (identified as goods manufactured by John Carr's company in North Shields, England), 5 fragments of brick-red ceramics, a brass snuffbox manufactured in Sweden in 1810 -1819 with “Perpetual Calendar” inscriptions, 4 fragments of kaolin pipes, a lead belt with openings (most probably a mend, repair of the planking), a lead hawse pipe, a cleat, an iron rowlock, two fragments of animal bones, a brass belt, an iron concretion and a wooden ring from a rope block.
Cobalt (blue) ornaments on the plates recovered from the Porcelain Wreck depict a legend of Willow (Blue Willow) which referred to the symbolism of China porcelain representations and was being popular for many decades with English manufacturers. The pattern had been applied in ornamentation of British porcelain since 1780.
Zdrojewski Z., Tajemnice XVIII wiecznego statku. Porcelana w ładowni wraku-widmo, „Ekspres Wieczorny”, wydanie C, nr 210, 24.10.1984, s. 1, 2.
Nowicz L., Porcelanowiec, „Okręty – wydanie specjalne”, 3, 2013, s. 18–24.
Bednarz T., Badania archeologiczne legendarnego Porcelanowca z Zatoki Gdańskiej, publikacja z międzynarodowej konferencji naukowej pt. "Morze wokół nas... bo takie jest rozległe i straszne", Gdańsk 2014. (w druku)
The "Gulf of Gdańsk Shipwreck Virtual Open-Air Museum" website (www.wsw.nmm.pl) has been created under the "Gulf of Gdańsk Shipwreck Virtual Open-Air Museum. Recording and Inventory of Underwater Archaeological Heritage" scientific research project, co-financed with the funds from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.