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The Search for the Kanrin Maru Shipwreck Continued

Friday, August 31, 2018 - 12:15

A large model of the Kanrin Maru on top of Cape Saraki in Kikonai (Hokkaido), with flowers imported from the Netherlands in bloom (source:

From 7 September to 9 September, the Maritime Programme and Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology (TUMSAT) will revisit their collaboration to continue the search for the Kanrin Maru shipwreck near Kikonai in Hokkaido, Japan. This time, the search is continued in the form of a dive survey.

A renewed collaboration

Last year saw the dawn of a joint effort of the Maritime Programme and TUMSAT’s professor Dr. Akifumi Iwabuchi to make first steps in uncovering the mystery surrounding the shipwreck of the Kanrin Maru. The collaboration is continued this year with this new project, for which the Maritime Programme provides funding and ensures knowledge exchange.

Shipwrecked in mists of information

The Kanrin Maru, a screw-propelled steam corvette, was the first in a series of ships built in the Netherlands for the Japanese government. It symbolises the Netherlands’ aid in Japan’s effort to gain in on the latest developments in the modern world, after centuries of Japan’s deliberate virtual seclusion. The vessel wrecked in September 1871 in what officials called a storm. Yet, there are some who believe it wrecked in clear weather due to human error, claiming there are signs of a subsequent cover-up. While there is no undisputed evidence of this, it already propels this shipwreck into a potential thriller. For certain is that a lot of details – including the exact location – to this day remain unclear.

Surveying unknown wreckage material

Last year’s land-based survey focussed on gathering oral information from the local community of Kikonai. Although a wreck has never been found, the community to this day believes that the wreck of the Kanrin Maru still lies at the foot of a small nearby cape called Saraki Misaki. A local diver even marked the location of still unidentified wreckage material which lies near the cape. This year’s dive survey will focus on this specific location. Next to the Maritime Programme and TUMSAT, involved organisations further include the Kikonai Municipal government, the Kamiiso Fishermen’s Association, Yoshida Sensui, the Asian Research Institute for Underwater Archaeology, Japan Coast Guard, while Japanese TV broadcaster NHK will also be present. On behalf of the Maritime Programme, Leon Derksen will participate in the survey. You can read his blogs and watch his vlogs in September on this website. Follow the story of the Kanrin Maru shipwreck on social media via #KanrinMaru.