The MV Schiedyk lies an estimated 400 feet under water off the western coast of Vancouver in Canada.
It sank in January 1968 after hitting an underwater ledge. More than 50 years later, an oil leak has been traced back to the wreck.
National Museums NI is helping the Canadian coastguard’s operation by supplying plans and images from the building of the 483ft cargo ship in Belfast in 1949.
Originally a steamship, it was rebuilt in the 1960s to its oil-fuelled form. These plans will help to build a clear picture of the type of oil used and the location and capacity of its fuel tanks.
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William Blair, director of collections for National Museums NI, said they are delighted to help, particularly given the impact on the environment of the oil leak.
“Any way that we can help them mitigate the environmental damage is absolutely wonderful,” he told the PA news agency. “For us, it has also been great to put the spotlight on the ship plan archive.”
The archive includes records from the Harland and Wolff shipyard as well as Workman, Clark and Co.
“Hundreds of ships were built over a long history of shipbuilding in Belfast, but obviously the one that gets disproportionate attention is Titanic. We do have the original design plans for Titanic and her sister ships, the Olympic and Britannic.
“We have a very extensive archive, we see it as being not just nationally significant but internationally important, given the importance of Harland and Wolff in the history of shipbuilding and the ships that were built in Belfast.”
The archive was recently rehoused in Cultra, Co Down and is now more accessible for the public by appointment when the museums reopen following the coronavirus lockdown.
“We have a dedicated exhibition on Titanic at the Transport Museum, so you can see some of the plans and designs on display,” he said.
“People tend to think of what’s on display when it comes to museum collections, when actually of the 1.4 million specimens in the collection, the majority are archive or research collections and not ever likely to be on display, but that doesn’t make them any less important. They are important for research reasons and this is a case in point.”
In a statement the Canadian Coastguard said they are currently recovering oil that is coming to the surface.
“The next step is a technical assessment of the sunken ship. We anticipate that will be complete around the end of May,”