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Outrage Over Handling of Graveyard Ship

Chinese community says vessel with 499 bodies should be undisturbed
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 24, 2014 4:39 PM CST

(Newser) – Last week, divers announced that they had found a ship that went down off the coast of New Zealand more than a century ago. Now, the nation's Chinese community has a message for all those figuring out what to do next: Keep your hands off it. The reason has everything to do with the ship's sensitive cargo, reports the New Zealand Herald. The SS Ventnor had been carrying the bodies of 499 Chinese miners back home to China for burial when it sank in 1902. Divers led by documentary maker John Albert displayed artifacts from the ship last week—no human remains were among them—and the New Zealand Chinese Association says it is "outraged" that it wasn't consulted in advance.

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The group wants the site left undisturbed, and above all it doesn't want more divers heading there as if it were just another shipwreck. New Zealand's race relations commissioner agrees. "The voices of Chinese New Zealanders—many of whom are descended from men whose remains are still with the wreck of the SS Ventnor—are missing amid very public plans to turn their final resting place into a tourism venture," says Susan Devoy. Albert has reached out to officials from New Zealand and China for guidance and expects an answer next week, reports Radio New Zealand. (Click to read about the "Titanic of the ancient world" found in Greece.)

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