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  1. dub
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    Did the Chinese discover Australia first?

    www.chinaview.cn 2004-12-25 11:12:09

    BEIJING, Dec. 25 -- Did the Chinese discover Australia first, way before the Europeans? The answer may soon be known. As CRI's Australia correspondent reports, wood found by a team searching for the famed Mahogany Ship in south-western Victoria has been taken to China for carbon dating to determine its age.

    In an effort to search for the mysterious Mahogany Ship, a team of amateur archaeologists recently unearthed some 20 lumps of red wood in dunes near the coast of Warrnambool in south-western Victoria.

    Patrick Connelly, Chairman of the Mahogany Ship Committee, says the wood uncovered about 12 meters beneath a sand dune, is hard and an unusual colour of red.

    According to timber analysis in Melbourne, they've already discovered that the wood was not native Australian timber, so it must have come from overseas. He says the Chinese have taken a keen interest in identifying the wood and samples have been sent to the country for carbon dating.

    "We're just waiting for the carbon dating from China because if it's several hundred years old it could be from the Chinese."

    Connelly says according to British maritime expert and author Gavin Menzies, the Chinese discovered the world early in the 15th century. In his book titled "1421: The Year China Discovered the World", Menzies claims that the fleets led by Zheng He from the Ming Dynasty were both in Australia and New Zealand.

    However, many historians have sought to debunk these theories.

    Connelly says for many years, the fabled Mahogany Ship has been believed to be a Portuguese ship wrecked on shore in Australia.

    "The unusually made ship was first found in about 1836. It disappeared in the sand about 1880. No one had cared very much about it. In the 20th century people started to wonder what it was and tried to find it. But they just can't find it anywhere."

    Earlier this year, the Melbourne excavation team based its work on a neglected compass bearing said to have been recorded by a whaling captain in 1836 and a dubious painting made in 1860 with a ship and a sand dune behind it. The team ignored the traditional search area along the shoreline and unearthed the lumps of wood a few kilometers from central Warrnambool.

    Connelly says 2005 is the 600th anniversary of the first international voyage by Zheng He's fleets. He thinks the reaction would be huge if the wood turned out to be more than 500 years old. Because if it is that old, it would be from one of the sea-going junks that according to Menzies, traveling all over the globe. Even historians who reject Menzies theories accept that in the 15th Century, China was a sea power.

    The excavation has also caused a lot of excitement in Australia's tourism sector. Roger Grant is from a local tourism organization.

    "I think it's a tremendous opportunity for an expansion of the Chinese market and one which we are currently actively promoting. And I think this will fit very nicely into the whole package that relates to not only the cultural and natural wonders of Australia, but of course something that has a Chinese connection."

    Patrick Connelly expects that the result of the carbon dating in China will be known within the first quarter of next year. He says people from Australia, China and Portugal are all anxiously waiting for the identification of the wood.

    (Source: CRIENGLISH.com)


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