Burma tries again to salvage its Great BellBy Asia Sentinel Oct 25, 2013 12:04PM UTC
A Rangoon businessman says he’ll search the Irrawaddy to find the Great Bell of Dhammazedi, reports Asia Sentinel
In 1606, an audacious Portuguese explorer and mercenary named Filipe De Brito e Nicote, who established temporary Portuguese rule in Burma, stole the biggest bell on earth from the fabled Shwedagon Pagoda in what was then Rangoon.
The bell, known as the Great Bell of Dhammazedi , a behemoth cast of 295 tonnes of copper, gold, silver and tin alloy, unfortunately got no further than about half a mile down the hill to the Bago River, where it was lashed to de Brito’s flagship for a journey across the river to be melted down for cannons. However, the raft broke up and sank, taking De Brito’s galleon down with it.
The Great Bell, described by a Venetian gem merchant who saw it to be “seven paces and three handbreadths in diameter,” apparently sits to this day at the confluence of the Bago and Irrawaddy Rivers, buried in 25 feet of mud.
While dozens of attempts have been made to find the bell and bring it up, to no avail, a Burmese businessman and ruling party lawmaker, Khin Shwe, says he plans another expedition to salvage the bell and has vowed to spend as much as US$10 million to do it.
It well could cost that much. Over the past 400 years many attempts have been made to recover the giant bell, including by a professional sea diver named James Blunt, who made 115 unsuccessful dives to attempt to find it amid the mud, the murk of the river and the wreckage of a flock of ships. In 2000, a Singapore-based treasure hunter and adventurer named Mike Hatcher agreed to try to bring up the bell and restore it to the Shwedagon Pagoda, with funds from Japanese, Australian and American companies. A Time Magazine correspondent was primed to go with Hatcher to document the rescue, but it never came off.
The attempt was said to have been opposed by Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi because of concerns that the operation might be misconstrued as an endorsement by the international community of the junta then in charge of the government. Hatcher, however, may have simply found more lucrative pursuits.
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