Medieval Shipwreck Raised From Depths of Dutch River

Rijkswaterstaat / Rijkswaterstaat

Three years after its discovery, a 65-foot-long medieval ship has been successfully pulled from the bottom of the Ijssel River in the Netherlands. The wooden ship, which weighed 50 tons, sank more than 600 years ago, according to archaeologists who worked on the project.

The boat, a common medieval trading ship known as a cog, was likely intentionally sunk in an attempt to alter the flow of the river around newly developed sandbanks. The fragile state of the ship required a careful, time-consuming recovery that involved three teams of specialists: archaeologists, divers, and storage experts. From LiveScience:

First, the team built a platform and crane on the river, then built a protective frame around the ship to lift it out of the water. After suctioning gunk from the area inside the frame, the archaeological team created 3-D images of the boat underwater. Only then were the team members ready to carefully lift the boat out of the water, using a basketlike structure made of straps, crossbeams and jacks.

"The fact that we were able to raise the Ijssel cog [a type of wooden vessel] in its entirety and in one attempt is a fantastic achievement by the entire team," lead maritime archaeologist Wouter Waldus said in a statement. Ben Broens, an official with Rijkswaterstaat, the Dutch government agency that supervised the dig, described the operation as “incredibly involved” and “almost as impressive as the cog itself.”

As LiveScience notes, most of the ship's valuable parts were removed long ago, though several glazed tiles and an intact brick oven remain. Depending on how it dries (a process that could take another three years), the ship will either be placed in a museum or, after being thoroughly studied, destroyed.

If it is salvageable enough to be placed in a museum, the unnamed ship could become a popular tourist attraction; the Vasa, a doomed 17th-century Swedish warship that sank less than a mile into its maiden voyage, has attracted millions of visitors since it was excavated from a shipping lane near Stockholm in 1961.