When Matthew Sayer found a mysterious rubber block washed up on Blyth beach, little did he suspect that it may have been part of a shipment on board the doomed Titanic.
The eight-year-old had been visiting the seaside with his mum, Deborah, when he found the heavy block, stamped with the word ‘Tjipetir’.
On returning to his home in Cramlington, Matthew googled the word with his dad Stephen, and found that the blocks, originating from Java, have been found washed up all over Europe.
Deborah said: “He was quite bemused by it at first and thought it was a funny thing to find at Blyth beach.
“It’s so heavy – we joked about it being a mini gravestone.
“My husband looked up Tjipetir on the internet with Matthew and it was only then they saw they’d been found around the world.”
Researchers, fascinated by the findings, have now traced the name back to an early 20th century rubber plantation in West Java in Indonesia.
Logbooks from the RMS Titanic reveal the ship was carrying a shipment from the plantation as part of its cargo when it hit an iceberg and sunk in April 1912.
Matthew’s find is one of two blocks found in south east Northumberland, the other having been recovered at Seaton Sluice.
A spokeswoman for the Tjipetir Mystery group, who herself found a block in Cornwall, said the two Northumberland finds were exciting as it revealed the cargo’s movement with the currents.
“These blocks and where they’ve turned up have been of so much interest a French film company are now making a documentary all about them,” she said.
“We’ve had two in the north east and another block turned up this week in Skegness, so they’re still travelling up the east coast.”
Around 40 have so far found their way to beaches in northern France, Germany, Jersey and the Netherlands in the last 12 months.
In the UK, they have appeared in Cornwall, Wales, Northumberland and Lincolnshire.
As speculation mounts as to how the objects have ended up floating across oceans, Deborah isn’t wholly convinced by the Titanic link.
The mother-of-three thinks they may have come from a merchant vessel that has sunk.
“My husband Stephen is a master mariner and said it couldn’t possibly be from the Titanic because of the way the currents flow.
“One theory is it’s from a shipwreck from the Second World War and that seems more likely.”
Matthew, who attends Hareside Primary School in Cramlington said he will take it into school to show his friends.
“I thought when I found it that it was the only one,” he said.
“I’ve been finding out all about it and what it means.”
To find out more about the curious rubber tablets, or to report a find, visit Facebook page Tjipetir Mystery.