PEKAN: The discovery of an old shipwreck in Sungai Pahang here can help answer the mystery behind the sinking of SS Amherst during its last voyage in 1901, says the National Heritage Department.
The department’s Eastern Zone director Mohd Shukri Mohd Isa said its officers were working to find out more about the wreckage, which included a funnel, anchor rope, propeller and engine combustion chamber that were characteristic of ships of the 1900s.
“If the facts are right, this could be Amherst. The ship was built in Glasgow and it was sailing from Singapore to Kota Baru with 77 passengers.
“Unfortunately, we could not find the vessel registration number. It could be hidden beneath the sand.
“That number could provide us with more clues,” he said yesterday.
Twelve archaeologists visited the site yesterday.
Villagers of Kampung Tanjung in Paloh Hinai here had noticed the shipwreck over the past month.
The department’s Senior Museum Assistant (Underwater Archaeology Section) Khairil Amri Abdul Ghani refuted claims that the ship was carrying gold.
“It’s a passenger steamship. We presume that she was not meant for a long journey judging from her features,” he said, adding the true nature of the vessel’s cargo could only be found through more research of past records.
“On the other hand, we have to analyse any information that we get from the people here as their stories could turn up to be true,” he added.
Kampung Paloh Hinai Development and Security Committee chairman Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said the story about the shipwreck had been passed down through the generations.
“It is said that the vessel sank due to the arrogant attitude of the captain and after ‘spirits’ were disturbed,” he added.
Legend has it that bad luck would befall those who tried to steal anything from the sunken wreck, says Ibrahim Mohd Tia, 85, whose house is located at the riverbank.
Another villager, Rosmaini Ibrahim, 39, said his cousin once took a machete from the ship back in the 1980s.
But he put it back the next day after having a bad dream about what he had done.
The emergence of the wreck was due to the drop in the water level of Sungai Pahang due to El Nino.
Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob has ordered an investigation into the cause, including allegations it is due to excessive logging or clearing of forest for agriculture in other areas.