The recovery of pottery estimated to be about 1,000 years old from a recently discovered shipwreck off the coast of Koh Kong province has been hampered by primitive technology and lack of funding, officials said Monday.
So far, some 400 recognizable items have been recovered from the seabed, registered and stored in a local warehouse owned by casino tycoon and new CPP Senator Ly Yung Phat.
However, the divers involved in the operation are unable to estimate how much more pottery is on the sea floor because they lack proper diving equipment, said Ouk Noeun, director of Koh Kong’s provincial department of culture and fine arts.
Due to a lack of funding, divers are not using scuba gear; instead, they are breathing through hoses being fed down from the surface, Ouk Noeun said.
“Divers are breathing through their mouths by a tube to the surface,” he said, adding that outside assistance is required to conduct a more efficient operation.
“No Cambodian archaeologist can dive in the 33-meter-deep water,” he said. “Only Cambodian navy divers can do it.”
He also said that he was taken aback by the fact that funding and outside help had not come to assist the divers in Koh Kong, though retrieval of the remains of the sunken boat, which is similar to a Chinese junk, will need superior technical assistance.
“When it comes to the junk, the committee [formed to monitor the find] should look for outside help,” Ouk Noeun said.
“It would be the pride of Koh Kong to have a museum with the junk and pottery that would bring tourists to the province,” he said.
Hab Touch, the deputy director of the National Museum and a member of the government committee established to deal with the ship, which is headed by National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy, said it will take expertise to raise the vessel.
“It is a slow process: divers blow the mud around and remove dirt little by little,” he said. “They cannot dig it out.”