Free-divers Search for 270-Ton Bell Resting Under 25 Feet of Mud

Great Bell of Dhammazedi dredging myanmar
Image (c) REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

In 1608, a Portuguese warlord named Filipe de Brito e Nicote was causing trouble near Myanmar and attempted to steal the Great Bell of Dhammazedi from the Golden Pagoda in what is now, Yangon.

This was no ordinary bell however.  According to researchers, the bell weighed approximately 270-tons and is said to be the largest ever cast.

de Brito was successful in getting it out of the pagoda and on to a raft, however as they were crossing the confluence of the Bago and Yangon Rivers, the raft broke apart and its enormous cargo sank to the bottom of the muddy river.

The Burmese didn’t take too kindly to the theft of their precious bell and after catching up with de Brito 5 years later, they impaled him on a wooden stake.

The bell has never been recovered and after over 400 years, likely sits under about 25 feet of mud.

After many fruitless attempts to find the bell, salvors are giving it another try today with the support of Burmese businessman Win Myint and 70+ divers.

According to an AP report, Myint is predicting success with his team of locals who have an uncanny ability to hold their breath for a really long time, however no mention was made of the use of side-scanning sonar or other technology that would almost certainly be a necessity for such a project.

Hooked on to a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), this sonar would allow salvors to see through the opaque muddy water and distinguish with extreme resolution, what exactly was on the bottom of that river, according to a recent conversation with Patrick Donovan, Principal at Meridian Ocean Services.  With a fleet of kitted-out ROVs, his company specializes in the use of such technology to survey underwater structures such as pipelines, oil and gas platforms and ship’s hulls.

“Even in the murkiest of waters, the technology we use can see right through it while completely mitigating the safety aspect of having a diver in the water,” notes Donovan.