The Story Behind The Mysterious Blocks Washing Up On Shores Around Europe

For decades, mysterious blocks with the inscription “Tjipetir” have been surfacing along the shores of Northern Europe without explanation. Now, thanks to Tracey Williams, a curious beachcomber, the puzzle is solved.

Williams, who hails from Cornwall, United Kingdom, first came across a “Tjipetir” block in the summer of 2012, while out on a walk with her dog. Instantly intrigued, she took it home and Googled the word, but was disappointed with the results. At the time, all she managed to discover was that “Tjipetir” was the name of a village in Indonesia.

With no significant results, she eventually forgot about the oddity, until a few weeks later, when another one washed up on a different beach.

Naturally, she decided it was time to do some investigating.

The Story Behind The Mysterious Blocks Washing Up On Shores Around Europe  - ClapwayPhoto Courtesy of

Through word of mouth, Williams heard that these rubber-like blocks had been washing up throughout Northern Europe – in France, Holland and Germany. The story eventually attracted the attention of journalists, historians and even oceanographers.

In order to solve the mystery and share her adventure, Williams launched a Facebook page dedicated to bringing together people who have also found their own slabs. Thus far, she has received submissions and photographs from people all over the world in England, Shetland, Norway, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Spain and even the Channel Islands.

Many initially speculated that the blocks might have come from the Titanic, which sank in 1912. But in the summer of 2013, Williams learned about another possibility: a Japanese cargo ship, Miyazaki Maru, was sunk by a German submarine during World War I, and was believed to be carrying the blocks from a rubber plantation in West Java, Indonesia called Tjipetir.

The British government now believes that this shipwreck is the source of the gutta-percha (a substance that is yielded from a tree native to Malaysia and the Malay Peninsula) blocks.

But the discovery is only just the beginning. Williams isn’t satisfied with just a name of a ship. Her next goal is to research the stories of everybody aboard the ship and what happened on that fateful day when it sank.

To find out more information about the “Tjipetir” blocks, check out Tracey William’s Facebook page here.