The port of Amoy, in China, had always been central to the country’s trading prowess. It was here that a large ancient Chinese sailing ship, known as a junk was moored. This ship was called the ‘Tek Sing’, translating as ‘True Star’. She was bound for Jakarta in Indonesia and she was loaded with precious cargo and Chinese passengers. On board there was porcelain, silks, spices, and medicines. There was so much cargo that some was even strapped to the outside of the ship’s hull.
After a month of sailing, the Tek Sing’s captain, Io Tauko, decided to attempt a shortcut through the Gaspar Strait between the Bangka-Belitung Islands. This was notoriously difficult sailing and the ‘Tek Sing’ ran aground on a reef. The junk sank in about 30m (100 feet) of water.
The next morning, February 7, an English East Indiaman, captained by James Pearl, sailing from Indonesia to Borneo passed through the Gaspar Strait. The ship encountered debris from the sunk Chinese vessel and an enormous number of survivors. Nearly 200 survivors were rescued.