London, Nov 19 : Russia is planning to raise a shipwreck that contains Catherine the Great's treasures like precious porcelain, gold, silver, bronze and Dutch paintings.
According to a report in the Telegraph, the Frau Maria, which sank in 1771, was commissioned by Catherine the Great to transport precious porcelain, gold, silver, bronze and 27 paintings by Dutch masters for her art collection, which became the basis for the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg.
But, the ship was struck by a storm in October 1771 and sank 41 metres (135 feet) off the coast of what was then Sweden, according to Artem Tarasov, head of the Rescue of National Cultural and Historic Valuables fund.
Tarasov said that the project would take two years.
"We would like to say that within two years all necessary measures will be taken and in 2010 we will be able to finally see what secrets this ship holds," he said.
There is still hope that the paintings have not been ruined.
Catherine herself sent off several expeditions in vain efforts to raise the schooner, which may indicate that the paintings, whose total cost could be up to 100 million euros, were packed into leaden boxes sealed with wax and could yet be salvaged, according to Tarasov.
Experts from Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands determined that soft ropes would be slipped beneath the well-preserved schooner, which would then be brought to dry dock to avoid unnecessary danger during the treasure hunt.
According to Hermitage deputy director Georgy Vilinbakhov, the museum was ready to welcome the precious cargo, which would arrive nearly 240 years late.
"We will work throughout 2009 to understand what we may face if that cargo is found and there is something to restore," he said.