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PORT VILA, Vanuatu (May 31, 2000 - Vanuatu Weekly/PINA Nius Online)---The people on Atchin Island claim that two Russian boats, which sank near the island before 1912, contain valuable treasures.

An elder on the island, Johnston Nimbwen, said this is not a new story. The story has been passed on from generation to generation, he said, and there is also a song that was composed about the two Russian boats.

Mr. Nimbwen said that, the names of the two ships are Albatross and Torresamen. "Albatross sank at Liwowoi passage and Torresamen sank on Banmela passage," explained Mr. Nimbwen.

He said the two vessels were big boats with sails on them and it is believed that the Albatross is the one with the most treasure.

"The anchor of the boat is still there but the boat is not visible from the surface," pointed out Mr. Nimbwen.

He said that if the two boats have the unbelievable hoard of priceless treasure worth Vatu 40 billion aboard, then the government should also look at compensating the islanders.

He said that there are a lot of other ships that sank in Vanuatu waters that might have treasures aboard them.

"But we have two Russian boats that definitely sank on our shores" stressed Mr. Nimbwen.

Some people who know Vanuatu underwater very well are not convinced. Reece Discombe, who is an expert on Vanuatu shipwrecks, said that he was not aware of any Russian ships in Vanuatu waters other than the Star of Russia in Vila Harbor.

Meanwhile, the government has withheld information about the assumed locations of the Russian boats for the fear of 'pirates' getting there first with high-technology equipment, including submarines.

Prime Minister Sope Maau Tamate and Wal Conroy of selective Investments PTY Ltd. are believed to know the locations of the ships.

Among the priceless Russian artifacts believed to be aboard the ships are jewelry, gold, icons, talismans and personal belongings of the Czar of Russia.

For additional reports from the Vanuatu Weekly/Hebdomadaire, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/ Vanuatu Weekly/Hebdomadaire.

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