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Nik Day Surfaces At Discovery Reef With Forbes Treasure

Forbes Treasure Wreck Discovery Reef
Photo courtesy Nautik Recovery Asia

Until recently Nik was one of the most popular dive instructors in Puerto Galera and then he just disappeared. Some said the Coral Cove thresher shark got him, others spoke of sirens. In fact he was one of two chief divers for Nautik Recovery Asia, a private company headed by Klaus Keppler on a secret mission to unlock the treasure and history of the Forbes – an English flagged privateer – that hit the then uncharted Discovery Reef off Belitung Island, Sumatra, Indonesia, in 1806. The wreck of the Forbes was discovered laying in 36-40 metres of water.

Today, Nik telephoned with the story of his work as part of the team who uncovered the treasure-filled wreck of the Forbes. In his first interview since the Forbes discovery became public knowledge, Nik described the moment the first treasure was recovered from the seabed.

“After positioning our support vessel directly over the Forbes wreck site, we spent two days setting up our grid, dredges and underwater sieves. Lying on the seabed were numerous cannons, wine bottles, porcelain and storage jars. The very first day of dredging uncovered a clump of seven silver coins and 12 separate coins. The next day 49 coins were found; then 380, then 1680, 4200 and on the 6th day of dredging we recovered a staggering 6650 silver coins. Everyone was buzzing with excitement, the atmosphere was electric. It’s an incredible feeling, extremely hard to describe. It was . . .” Nik pauses, lost in deep thought, after several seconds you could hear the huge smile spread across his face, “one of the greatest moments of my life”.

“In all, we recovered over 30,000 coins. Sorry mate but I’m not allowed to divulge the exact number. We also recovered 14 large iron cannons (probably 12-pounders), storage jars, porcelain, 400 odd wine bottles, glasses and even a little bit of gold.”

“There are a lot of people involved in a project of this nature. On board, as well as myself, there is Fred Dobberphul (Scientific Director), Jean-Paul Blancan (Chief diver), four Indonesian government officials (to ensure we aren’t stealing and to provide security), one official from our joint-venture partner, 19 local divers, nearly 20 boat crew and two smaller vessels with their crew that make trips to nearby Belitung for food & water, personnel transfers, fuel and any materials we need on-site. Then you have all the staff from the office and warehouse; secretaries, gophers, a company driver and a host of archeological people.”

I asked Nik whether the lifting of so much treasure from the Forbes would change his focus on scuba diving? “I have worked full time as a scuba diver since day-one of my Open Water Diver course. I have worked hard to earn a good reputation in Puerto Galera as an instructor/dive master and can return there whenever I want. But the Canyons and Shark Caves will have to wait for now as our company already has our next two sites lined up. We have one bloke in our company whose job is to research wrecks for us and he has provided us with several locations that we will survey in the hope of finding more wrecks to salvage.”

“The only negative aspect about my job is being separated from Jane, Joanna & Sophie for long periods. But I am really looking forward to some well earned down-time with my family when I return to the Philippines in early September.”

All the photographs here are owned by Nautik Recovery Asia.

Divers decompress over the Forbes Nik Day with huge clump Forbes' silver coins Local divers recovering silver coins and porcelain
Decompression accelerated with O2 – 1 hour for 45 minutes bottom time with the Forbes Nik and a huge clump of Forbe’s silver coins Local diver recoverying silver coins and porcelain

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