A friend and inspiration of mine just made contact with me after his ship sank off the coast of Taiwan. The article is below along with a link to a short video of the wreck and rescue. Please keep Hugh in your thoughts.
A replica 16th-Century junk has sunk off Taiwan, one day short of completing an epic voyage to the US and back.
The Ming dynasty-style Princess Taiping was trying to prove that China's greatest admiral, Zheng He, could have reached North America 600 years ago.
After surviving several storms during its 10-month voyage, the junk broke in two and sank after it was rammed by a freighter just off Taiwan's coast.
All 11 crew members were rescued after being found adrift on the wreckage.
"We have worked so hard for so many years, but we failed at the last minute, I'm really ashamed," said Taiwanese captain Liu Ningsheng after being rescued by the coast guard.
The 54ft-long (16.5m) Princess Taiping, powered only by cotton sails on three masts, was designed according to ancient specifications.
It set sail last June and called at several ports on the US west coast, including San Francisco, and at Honolulu, after riding out several storms.
It sank 30 miles (48km) off the island's north-eastern port of Suao, just hours shy of completing its record-breaking Pacific crossing.
Capt Liu's crew included six Americans, two Japanese, one Taiwanese and a Chinese national.
Several were treated for hypothermia or light injuries, but later released.
Some historians argue that the Chinese discovered America, citing anchors and various other Chinese artefacts found scattered on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.
Updated Monday, April 27, 2009 9:41 am TWN, By David Young,The China Post
Princess Taiping rammed by unknown vessel
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- “We all but made it,” Nelson Liu bemoaned yesterday.
He skippered his Ming war junk Princess Taiping through an unprecedented trans-Pacific voyage, which came to an abrupt end only a stone's throw away from its destination at 2:40 a.m.
An unidentified freighter rammed the replica of a three-masted Chinese war junk, cutting it into two halves off Suao, a fishing port on northeastern Taiwan.
The Princess Taiping was expected to berth at Keelung this morning after a 14,000-mile voyage across the Pacific in ten months.
Liu and his 10-member crew, thrown into the seas in the hit-and-run accident at the 11th hour of their ambitious record-making voyage, were saved by Taiwan's air force and coast guard rescue team.
With head and leg injuries, Liu was helped aboard a National Coast Guard Administration cutter three hours after the Hong Kong-registered Princess Taiping was hit in the middle of night.
“We had earned 99 marks (out of 100),” said 62-year-old Liu, resting at the Veterans General Hospital at Suao where he was taken after the cutter docked at 10:00 a.m where he was later released.
“It's a pity that we couldn't earn the last one mark,” Liu lamented. “No word can describe how sorry I am.”
The skipper was asleep when a crew member woke him up and warned of an unknown freighter coming too close to the Princess Taiping.
“I contacted the freighter by radio,” Liu went on. “We talked in English and I was told to keep my ship to the starboard side of the freighter,” he added.
Liu obeyed. Two minutes later, however, the freighter split his vessel.
“The only identification I have of the freighter is its christened name, Champion Express,” Liu recalled.
The Coast Gguard confirmed the Champion Express was off Suao. But it did not stop to look for those thrown overboard, they said.
“As a matter of fact,” a coast guard lieutenant said, “the Champion Express, which was heading north, stopped only a few minutes, and then continued to sail northwards.”
Alerted by the call for help from the Princess Taiping, the air force search and rescue center dispatched helicopters, which located the shipwreck at 5:16 a.m.
Masao Kinjo, a Japanese crew member, was rescued first. The other nine — including Elizabeth Zeiger, John Hunter and Hugh Morrow of the United States — were lifted off the seas less than half an hour later.
Jason Arnold, Larz Stwewart, William Cook Thomas, Jack L. Durham and Yoji Mori formed the rest of the crew.
Adrift in the sea for more than three hours, all crew members suffered hypothermia or subnormal body temperature. Two of them had minor injuries. They were taken to the Military Hospital at Songshan and the Armed Forces General Hospital at Neihu for treatment.
All crew members save Thomas were released after treatment.
Launched at Amoy or Xiamen in January last year, the Princess Taiping, which was 45 feet wide at the beam, was an exact copy of a war junk of Koxinga's navy.
Koxinga, a loyal general of the Ming Dynasty (1369-1644), drove the Dutch out of Taiwan and claimed the island for China in 1572. He tried in vain to restore Ming rule to China, overrun by the Manchu, who set up China's last imperial dynasty.
War junks of Koxinga fought and defeated the much better-equipped Dutch fleet in 1671 and his Chinese troops landed successfully to besiege Zeelandia, present-day Anping near Tainan.
Last June 26, the Princess Taiping, which means Peace in Chinese, left Keelung on the trans-Pacific voyage. Captain Liu, a yachtsman, was the first Taiwan mariner to accomplish a round-the-world voyage by yacht in 2001. It took 877 days to make the record.
After crossing the ocean, the handcrafted junk was supposed to end up in Vancouver after a 69-day motor-less voyage from Japan. But a tropical storm drove it to Eureka, California, instead. It then sailed to San Francisco on October 14.
Then the Princess Taiping crossed the Pacific again to reach Saipan, where American crew members and Angela Chao, a writer and painter from Johannesburg, South Africa, were interviewed.
Chao had every faith in the skipper. “Scared,” Chao said, “No, our captain is very reliable. He has sailed around the world. He's very experienced.”
Zeiger, a newly graduated agriculture student from the University of Hawaii, said she would never forget her “lifetime experience.”
Hunter said it felt like they were cast members of the famed reality TV show, “Survivor,” while Monroe pointed out he and his shipmates want “to preserve Chinese shipping culture and create awareness about Chinese sailing history.”
From Saipan, the ship sailed for Naha. The mishap occurred on its way back to Taiwan from Okinawa. They tried, and almost succeeded.
The Princess Taiping was also a replica of one of the great Chinese war junks Zheng He, the eunuch admiral under the third Ming emperor, led to pacify all Southeast Asia, and reached as far as North Africa.
At the time of Zheng He, China had the world's most powerful navy.