"This is ME ..."
Somasiri Devendra – that’s me – am the proverbial rolling stone. I’ve gathered no moss but, maybe some rough edges have been smoothed out.After graduating from the University of Ceylon, in 1955, I was a school teacher before being commissioned, in 1960,as an Instructor Officer in the Royal Ceylon Navy, later the Sri Lanka Navy. I retired seventeen years later, my last posting being that of Commandant,Naval & Maritime Academy, at Trincomalee.I was then invited to join Somerville & Co.(Pvt) Ltd., Sri Lanka’s oldest firm of Share and Produce Brokers.
I was soon on the Board, was Chairman of the Colombo Brokers’ Association and a founding Director of the fledgling Colombo Stock Exchange,now a very high performing one. Ten years later my health made me resign.
I asked myself "Now what? Why not do what I’ve always wanted to?"
The decision changed my life, bringing satisfaction, achievement. I introduced Maritime Archaeology to the country, forming a group of enthusiasts and foreign experts for field work. ICOMOS, adopting the new discipline made me a member of the first Scientific Committee, now the ICUCH,(am still there, barely). For eighteen years I led every maritime archaeological project in the country, put it on the map,and established a Maritime Archaeology Unit, for the love of the work. Bread and butter came from various assignments,some of which you will find mentioned in this site. But long-delayed surgery ruled out fieldwork,leading me back to an old love: the study of old Sri Lankan ships – again, an almost “green field” exercise.Then it was time to stop writing papers and delivering orations and put in one place all my more important work in various fields,and especially the study of the nautical culture of my country. And this is that place.
... and this is "Seas and Ships and Serendib"
There was nothing at all on the web. A big “black hole” Researchers abroad were unaware of our ships, our technology and our nautical heritage. Mention in travelers’ blog sites, yes, but nothing more. There was one thing to do: put all my findings on a web site. This. It’s not quite academic – I am not one, either – and has bits and pieces of odd things I have done in my life. It’s an unpretentious kind of presentation. But the 2nd Century BCE logo from our ancient port of Godawaya, near our newest port, Hambantota – defines my focus.
(How the Old and the New overlap!) We came here by sea and we are a nation because sea levels rose, weaning us away from Mother Asia, yet denying ships a navigable passage between us.
Every ship sailing across the Indian Ocean broke journey here to ride out the monsoons, left their thumb prints on our indigenous watercraft (and us!) Sri Lanka is a palimpsest of nautical cultures.
Thus every ship sailing across the Indian Ocean broke journey here to ride out the monsoons, leave its thumb print on our indigenous watercraft (and us!) and making ours a palimpsest of nautical cultures. But first, we had evolved our own watercraft – we have unearthed a complete boat that sank in 2400 BCE – and developed a very distinctive nautical culture.
This culture, is “the ORU culture.” The heart of this web site is about it.