A fabulous sunken treasure may be recovered off Finland coast as archaeologist divers say they have found the wreck of a legendary 15th-century vessel.
According to historic documents, the Hanneke Wrome was one of two ships that left Luebeck, Germany, for Tallinn, Estonia, on Nov. 11, 1468.
Records also indicate the cargo included 10,000 gold coins and gold jewelry - a treasure estimated to be worth more than $150 million today.
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Strong east winds, actually very rare in Finland, caught both vessels. While the other ship managed to get to Tallinn, the Hanneke Wrome went down in the storm with more than 200 passengers and crew.
"It was one of the major maritime casualties of the time and it wasn't the only one to occur on that route," team leader Rauno Koivusaari said.
In 1994 the Ms Estonia sank while crossing the Baltic Sea, en route from Tallinn to Stockholm. Taking 852 lives, the sinking was one of the worst disasters at sea of the 20th century.
An experienced wreck researcher who also discovered the treasure-filled Vrouw Maria in 1999, Koivusaari found what he believes is the Hanneke Wrome's wreck south of the Finnish island of Jussarö.
"The wreck is scattered in east-west direction, confirming the dynamic of the sinking during the eastern storm," Koivusaari told Discovery News.
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He added that documents in Tallin state archives record two different distances for the ship sinking, one 10 miles from Tallin and other 14 miles from Tallin.
"Both of them were right. One measured the distance in Hanseatic nautical miles and the other used the league, a unit of lenght invented by Romans and still in use at that time. The ship was found right at that recorded distance," Koivusaari said.
Measuring some 130 feet in length, the Hanneke Wrome appears in an underwater video shot by team member Micke Ahgren.
The footage shows well-preserved sections of the wooden hull and even an anchor.
"It is right the kind of anchor used in the Hanseatic ships," Koivusaari said.
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He added the wreck shows it was built in the construction style of a cog ship, but it is bigger and may be a hulk ship instead. Hulk ships were mostly used as a river or canal boats.
"The wreck has more than one mast, perhaps even three. I could see a joint knee integrated with the ship ribs. This is strange, but really nobody knows much of this ship style," Koivusaari said.
Koivusaari and his team have so far identified a few items.
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"There were roof tiles, an unknown lead object and barrel lids. Researchers at the University of Helsinki are currently trying to find out if they belong to honey barrels," he said.
"However, we have not started to make any excavation yet," Koivusaari said.
Finland's National Board of Antiquities has planned further investigations of the wreck in the summer, which include dating of the wood to confirm the vessel is indeed the Hanneke Wrome.
If recovered, the sunken treasure will become property of the Finnish government.
Image: Underwater image of the wreck. Credit: Rauno Koivusaari