Sad end to historical adventure

Skipper hoped to prove Ming-era ships could have beaten Columbus to North America; gets creamed by freighter instead

Nelson Liu became obsessed a few years ago with the idea that large junks could have sailed from China to North America before the time of Columbus and Cabot. So the 61-year-old sailor had the Princess Taiping built to the specifications of a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) war junk and set sail from Hong Kong last summer. On Sunday, he was less than 45 km from the end of a triumphant 20,000 km round-trip voyage across the Pacific when his 54-foot craft was smashed and sunk by a giant freighter off Taiwan. All 11 crew survived by clinging to the wreckage. “God or Buddha kept us alive,” he said. “It must have some meaning.”

San Francisco Chronicle

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