Some believe a mystery unfolding across the Atlantic Ocean may have an Akron connection.
Rubber blocks have been washing ashore across parts of Europe for quite some time, and the discovery of a rubber glove in a shipwreck has fueled speculation that Akron may have a connection to it all.
The blocks made of gutta percha, a type of rubber latex, with “Tjipetir” emblazoned on them, are being found on beaches in several countries.
More than 50 blocks have washed ashore since 2012 in Cornwall, England, and later, Devon, Lincolnshire, Northumbria, Kent and also in the English Channel islands, France, Holland and Germany.
The discoveries are being charted by a woman from Cornwall, England — herself a mystery as she did not want to be identified — on a Facebook page called the Tjipetir Mystery.
The woman said Tjipetir is the name of an early 20th century plantation in Java, Indonesia.
Around the same time the rubber blocks were discovered, bales of raw rubber also were washing ashore in Cornwall bearing the names Senawang and Eu Tong Sen.
This has led to speculation that the rubber materials could be coming from either the RMS Titanic, which hit an iceberg in 1912 and sank, the SS Gairsoppa, sunk in 1941 by a German U-boat and discovered by salvagers in 2011 or the SS Moerdyk, which collided with another ship in 1904.
Among the items on the cargo manifest of the Titanic is gutta percha.
“It is possible that the blocks could be coming from more than one vessel,” the Facebook organizer said in an interview.
Also around the same time, there is a shipwreck salvage operation at the western approach to the English Channel where a rubber glove made in Akron by the Miller Rubber Co. was found.
A photograph of the glove was posted on the Tjipetir Mystery Facebook and also on the Web page for the Wrakken Museum in the Netherlands where the glove is being kept.
The museum’s website — wrakkenmuseum.nl/museum — offers an account of how the Miller Rubber Co. glove was retrieved. The museum notes that in March 2012, the salvage vessel Good Hope found an unknown freighter that was likely sunk in World War I.
A large amount of copper wire and machinery and auto parts were also found on the ship along with the well-preserved glove from Akron.
Hille Van Dieren, 66, who owns and operates the Wrakken Museum, said he has been diving shipwrecks in Europe since 1975.
He said he found the rubber glove and others like it, perfectly preserved, while searching the Norwegian ship Sola off the coast of England at the Isles of Scilly near Cornwall.
He said the Sola was sunk by a German submarine in October 1916.
“It was so interesting that you could read the name” on the gloves, he said.
Van Dieren disagrees with others that there is a link between the gloves and the rubber blocks and bales.
He said the rubber blocks have washed ashore near his home on the Terschelling Island.
But those tracking the Tjipetir Mystery are hoping someone in Akron might be able to shed more light on when the rubber gloves that were found might have been manufactured.
Miller Rubber history
Records show the Miller Rubber Co. was formed in Akron in 1899. It made many rubber products, including toys, sundries, tires and gloves.
According to Beacon Journal archives, the company had factories on 30 acres in South Akron and 32 acres in Kenmore.
The company was purchased by B.F. Goodrich in 1930 for $10 million.
At the time, Miller had branches and warehouses in 126 U.S. cities and branches and distribution in 92 foreign countries and colonies.
In 1960, Goodrich gave the city 16 buildings on 13 acres in the area of South Main Street, Cole, Sweitzer and Stanton avenues that had been Miller Rubber property.
The buildings were demolished in 1962.
“What we are trying to find out is how Akron and the Miller Rubber Co. fits into all this,” said the woman behind the Facebook page. “We’d love people from Akron to be part of this story — none of us know at this moment where it is heading but are sure an extraordinary tale lie behind this cargo.”
Judy James, special collections manager at Akron-Summit County Public Library, said she has found patents for gloves from Miller Rubber in the time frame of 1902-1903.
Anyone with information about the production of rubber gloves at the Miller Rubber Co. can post on the Facebook page Tjipetir Mystery or email email@example.com.
For more information about the Sola shipwreck, visit www.wrecksite.eu. A film is being made by Nina Barbier about the mystery of the rubber blocks. To see the film’s trailer, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_jzbjlrU8I.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org.