Starting from reading Dutch archives, this foreigner got 100 gold bars in the Indonesian sea


Jakarta, CNBC Indonesia – The treasures scattered throughout Indonesia make many people curious. Moreover, many of them are successful thanks to treasure hunting. One of the phenomenal treasure hunters is a foreigner named Michael Hatcher.

This man, born in 1940, is in a profession that might be considered outdated, namely ocean explorer. Even though it was underestimated, it was this profession that made his name famous and succeeded in thickening his wallet.

Hatcher’s beginnings as a treasure hunter began in 1975. One day in the Dutch National Archives building, he read Dutch archives about shipwrecks during the VOC and the Dutch East Indies government. He realized that shipwrecks not only leave skeletons, but also the valuables they carry on the seabed.


Call it gold bars, precious jars, and even silver. If this item is successfully removed and sold it will definitely be expensive. Since then he has mapped areas in Indonesia where ships could run aground.

On the other hand, it is not easy to take treasure. To retrieve it, Hatcher needs to descend to the seabed more than 50 meters deep. The deeper you go, the more dangerous it is. Visibility is getting shorter and the current is getting faster.

However, in 1986, Hacther managed to do it. He found the VOC ship, Geldermalsen, which had sunk in the waters of Karang Heliputan, Riau. He managed to get 100 gold bars and 20,000 Chinese porcelain (other sources say 225 gold bars and 160,000 ceramics) from the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

Of course, this effort was carried out illegally and secretly so that the government would not know about it.

“All the items were auctioned at Christie’s Auction House, Amsterdam. They sold for 15 million US dollars [Setara Rp 210 miliar],” Widiati wrote in Ancient Ceramics from the Seabed in Indonesian Waters.

He believes that this business should not be problematic and he has received permission from the Dutch government. According to him, the Dutch government also gets a 10% share of sales.

“The Netherlands even told the Indonesian government that the assets from the ship we were transporting were in international waters. Because of that, there was no denial from Holland (ed. Netherlands). […] “And actually it was the Dutch government who asked us to look for the treasure,” he said Tempo (October 18, 1986).

Hatcher’s success in finding treasure and winning US$15 million sparked the enthusiasm of Indonesians to do the same thing, whether individually or in groups. On the other hand, this news made the government furious.

President Soeharto, who did not know that there was potential for great treasure at the bottom of the sea, felt he had missed out. In the 1980s, the figure of IDR 210 billion was clearly not small. If the cost of building TMII was IDR 10 billion, then the New Order would be able to build 20 TMII throughout Indonesia.

Finally, Soeharto issued Presidential Decree no. 43 of 1989 concerning National Committee for the Removal and Utilization of Valuable Objects from the Cargo of Sunken Ships. Through this regulation, Soeharto formed a team headed by the Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security to hunt for treasure. That rule still exists today.

Back to Hatcher. His success didn’t stop there. In 1999, he succeeded in exploring the Chinese ship, Tek Sing, in Bangka waters. In intact condition, this ship measures 42×10 meters and weighs 900 tons.

“Before it sank in February 1822, the ship was recorded as carrying 350,000 Chinese ceramics, thousands of iron, brass, bronze cannons, etc. All of them came from the 19th century and were produced from Fujian,” wrote Trigangga in Exploration of Shipwrecks in Indonesia.

It was these items that Hatcher found to transport to auction in Stuttgart, Germany, in November 2000. The treasure was estimated at IDR 500 billion. Making it the largest discovery of treasure from a shipwreck in history.

Based on archives Detik.com (30 April 2010), the man nicknamed ‘The Wreck Salvage King’ tried again to hunt for treasure. He was reportedly detected in Subang waters to extract treasure from the Ming Dynasty worth US$ 200 million. However, this time the government succeeded in preventing it.

[Gambas:Video CNBC]

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