After two years at sea, the large ship Ostindiefararen today reached its final destination, my home town Gothenburg. It had sailed to Guangzhou (Kanton) in China and back, visiting the ports of Recife, Cape Town, Jakarta, Shanghai and many more on its voyage.
I just got back from the harbor, where we saw the ship lay anchor and heard speeches from both the Swedish king Carl Gustaf as well as the Chinese president Hu Jintao.
There were demonstrations and activity in the city, due to the president’s stand on executions and media censure. For instance, read Alan Johnson concerning Hu Jintao. Amnesty arranged a manifestation outside the Opera house close to the ship. They also hung a five meter wide poster on the Älvsborgsbron bridge as the ship passed beneath, reading “Human rights are needed in China”. All this has led to security measurements on almost the same scale as when George W Bush visited the city in 2001 (the infamous riots).
The ship is a recreation of the original Ostindiefararen, built in 1738. The original made three voyages from Gothenburg to Guangzhou and back, but on the last journey in 1745 it hit the infamous reef “Hunnebådan” and sank, with the safe harbor just in sight. The lost cargo was worth a fortune, filled to the brim with Chinese porcelain, spices, silk and tea now buried at a depth of about eight meters. Some of the cargo was saved, but the most part was still there when the wreck was rediscovered in 1984.
Plans were made to build a replica and travel the same itinerary as the original. The construction started in 1995. Six years ago, I visited the hall where it was being built and had a look at the unfinished but still magnificent hull.
It is mostly a copy of the original, but some modifications were made. One of them was increasing the height of the decks, since today’s crewmen are taller than 300 years ago, and both radar and GPS were naturally installed as well.