The best preserved shipwreck ever found from the age of Christopher Columbus (pictured) and Vasco da Gama has been discovered – at the bottom of the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Estonia, writes David Keys Archaeology Correspondent at the Independent. See HERE.
The newly discovered Baltic Mary Celeste is also at the heart of a 500 year old maritime mystery.
Virtually pristine condition, the vessel has been located by archaeologists at a depth of around more than 120 metres some 100 miles South East of Stockholm.
Some 99 percent of the ship is intact – with the masts still standing tall and its two swivel guns in their firing positions.
A small tender boat is still sitting on the deck, as is the wooden capstan. Even the bilge pump and elements of the rigging can be seen. The bowsprit and decorated transom stern are also clearly visible.
However, the 16 metre long vessel’s aft-castle had somehow been destroyed.
This, together with the guns being in their “ready to fire” positions, strongly suggests that the ship was sunk in a previously unknown naval battle.
Probably a small Swedish or Danish merchantman, the vessel was almost certainly built at some stage between 1490 and 1540 – most likely in the very early 16th century.
It is therefore conceivable that it was sunk during Sweden’s war of independence – the three year long conflict between that country and its Danish rulers which raged between 1521 and 1523. Alternatively the vessel may have been sunk during the Russo-Swedish War of 1554 –1557.
Although the ship is by far the best preserved vessel ever found from Europe’s Age of Discovery, it is of a Northern European rather than southern European design.
However, the size of the ship, the shape of the perfectly preserved bow, the design of the anchors and of the masts and rigging are thought to be very similar to those of Columbus’ two smaller vessels, the Pinta and La Niña which he used along with the larger Santa Maria, to cross the Atlantic and discover America in 1492.
The discovery will therefore help maritime archaeologists and historians to understand more fully some of the ship technologies available to Columbus for his great 1492 voyage of discovery.
What happened to the crew of the Baltic ship is a complete mystery? Were all or most of them killed in the attack which destroyed the ship’s aft-castle? Were they captured by the attacking vessel – or did they survive the attack but were somehow unable to launch their tender and consequently went down with their ship?
The investigation of the newly discovered ship is being carried out by an international team of scientists, including archaeologists from the University of Southampton.
The whole project Is being led by Dr Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz, a maritime archaeologist working for the Swedish offshore survey company, MMT in collaboration with the Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southampton and the Maritime Archaeology Research Institute of Södertörn University, Sweden.
Dr Pacheco-Ruiz, who is also a Visiting Fellow in Maritime Archaeology at Southampton, said: “This ship dates from Europe’s Age of Discovery, yet it demonstrates a remarkable level of preservation after five hundred years at the bottom of the sea.
“It’s almost like it sank yesterday. It’s a truly astonishing sight,” he added.
The vessel lies on the seabed with her hull structure preserved from the keel to the top deck and all of her masts and some elements of the standing rigging still in place.
The extraordinary level of preservation is a result of the very low levels of oxygen near the seabed in that part of the Baltic.
That massively reduces the number of micro and other organisms that would otherwise have quite literally eaten the vessel’s timbers.
The video is therefore the first occasion on which anybody has been able to actually see a real almost totally preserved Age of Discovery vessel since the 16th century.