World’s oldest surviving Chinese sailing vessel returns to Taiwan
The world’s oldest surviving Chinese junk returned home to Taiwan on Thursday, nearly 60 years after it set sail on a historic voyage to the United States, organisers said.
The Free China arrived in the northern port of Keelung aboard a cargo ship from San Francisco. It will be restored and displayed in a maritime museum in the city, said L.S. Lwo, head of the boat restoration project.
The 100-year-old boat is believed to be the oldest surviving wooden Chinese sailing ship, or junk, in existence and the last of its kind, according to the Chinese Junk Preservation that has been trying to save it.
The boat and its six crew left Keelung in 1955 to cross the Pacific during a yacht race and arrived in San Francisco after a 112-day voyage, the organisation said.
The vessel, which was in need of an overhaul upon arrival in San Francisco, went through several owners and was left in a shipyard while it continued to deteriorate until Taiwan’s government stepped in to save it, it said.
“We are happy that she has arrived safely,” said Calvin Mehlert, an original crew member of Free China who has assisted in the junk’s return to Taiwan.
“We are pleased that the people of Taiwan are now going to devote the resources that will be required to properly restore this treasure,” he said.
[Photo released by the Reno Chen Family collection/Chinese Junk Preservation shows the "Free China" that set sail on a historic voyage from Taiwan to the US nearly 60 years ago.]