Thursday, February 19, 2009


Danton wreck found in deep water


By Jonathan Amos
February 19, 2009

A French battleship sunk in 1917 by a German submarine has been discovered in remarkable condition on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Danton, with many of its gun turrets still intact, is sitting upright in over 1,000m of water.

It was found by the Fugro geosciences company during a survey for a gas pipeline between Algeria and Italy.

The Danton, which sank with 296 sailors still onboard, lies 35km southwest of the island of Corsica.

Naval historians record that the Danton's Captain Delage stood on the bridge with his officers and made no attempt to leave the ship as it went down.

The French government is now keen to see that the site is protected.

"Its condition is extraordinary," said Rob Hawkins, project director with Fugro GeoConsulting Limited.

"After it was hit by the torpedoes, the Danton clearly turned turtle and rotated several times. You can see where it dropped some infrastructure on the way down and then impacted on the seabed.

"You can see where it slid along the seabed before coming to a rest," he told BBC News.

A comparison with the original plans for the battleship - in particular, the position of its 240mm guns - confirms the wreck's identity.

The final resting place is a few kilometres from where people have traditionally thought the ship met its end.

"The French Admiralty did argue with us for a while that it should have been several nautical miles away, but we reminded them that modern GPS methods are more accurate than the sextants they used in those days," said Mr Hawkins.

Details of the discovery were released on Thursday at a press conference at the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan.

The pipeline is being built by the Galsi (Gasdotto Algeria Sardegna Italia) consortium and will be the deepest underwater conduit for gas ever constructed when it becomes operational in 2012.

Finding a safe route for it was extremely challenging, said Mr Hawkins.

About 20% of the course lies on the abyssal plain in water depths of about 2,850m. There are also steep descents from the continental shelf.

Fugro deployed its Autonomous Underwater Vehicle to gather bathymetric (depth) and geophysical data.

It also used Remotely Operated Vehicles to make more detailed surveys of particular locations, such as where sediment conditions were uncertain or the route crossed known submarine telecommunications cables.

The discovery of the Danton, named after the French revolutionary Georges Danton, requires the gas feed must take a slight detour to avoid the war grave.

The ship was one of the most advanced in the French Navy at the time of its loss, although it was already outclassed by the newer HMS Dreadnought design being introduced by the British.

The 19,000-tonne, 150m-long vessel was carrying over 1,000 men when it was attacked by Germany's U-64 submarine at 1317 on 18 March, 1917. Patrol boats and a destroyer managed to save most of those onboard.

The Danton was travelling between Toulon and Corfu, where it was due to meet up with other vessels in the French fleet. Many of those making the trip were actually crewmembers for the other ships at Corfu.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Ships, Saints and Sealore:Maritime Ethnography of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea Conference


Ships, Saints and Sealore:Maritime Ethnography of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea Conference

Thursday, 16th April to Sunday, 19th April 2009

Dr Timmy Gambin (Malta)
Professor Dionisius A. Agius (Exeter)

Keynote Speakers:
Professor Cheryl Ward, maritime archaeologist, Florida State University

Professor Seán McGrail, maritime archaeologist, formerly of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich and University of Oxford

To register your interest write to: and to:

For further information visit conference website:

Sponsored by The National Maritime Museum of Malta, the Centre for Maritime Historical Studies, University of Exeter and the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter. Supported by the Aurora Special Purpose Trust and Midsea Books.



Chinese Junk Preservation Group Continues Efforts to Rescue Historic Vessel from Extinction


By Dione Chen

Schematic of the Free China.(Photo courtesy of Chinese Junk Preservation).

Efforts continue to save the Free China, a historic Chinese junk that was slated for destruction on Dec. 31, 2008, but begins 2009 with a tenuous extension of life.

The authentic junk is possibly the oldest Chinese wooden sailing vessel of operable condition in existence, and the last of its kind. However, the current owner—a boatyard owner in the Sacramento delta—has said that he would destroy the junk unless a new home was found by year end.

Chinese Junk Preservation is a small group of volunteers comprised of maritime experts, historians, members of the Chinese American community and friends and family of the crew that sailed the junk across the Pacific Ocean in 1955. The group hopes to beat the odds by finding a home for the junk in which it will have a public life contributing to awareness and interest in maritime, Chinese and American culture and history and immigration.

With the Dec. 31 deadline for destruction fast-approaching, the group negotiated a 3-month extension for continued temporary storage of the junk. This extension—granted at a cost to the preservation group, which has raised only minimal funds—is only a temporary lease on life, and so the group continues efforts to raise awareness and funds to save the junk.

Encouraged by interest in a recent MUA article as well as a December ’09 Associated Press article that was picked up by over 200 media (tv, radio, online and print newspapers) worldwide, the group hopes that the extension will “buy time” to find a new interim home for the remainder of the year, and, importantly, secure a long-term home and preservation plan.

Rather than abandon its efforts, the group has developed a pragmatic 1-year strategy to save the junk. The group needs to raise an estimated $50,000 within the next two months—no easy task, especially in this economy.

These funds would be used to undertake only the most essential steps to saving the junk:

Pay for interim storage of the junk in the San Francisco Bay Area, and transportation to the new location, while the group continues efforts to secure a long-term home for the junk. Provide for physical protection of the vessel from the damaging effects of weather.

Commission a professional survey and documentation of the junk’s construction and original and current (altered) condition. This study is vital in order to ensure that detailed knowledge of the vessel’s construction will be available in the future. This information is necessary to ascertain restoration requirements if the junk is saved, and all the more important to archiving the knowledge if the junk cannot be saved. Although John Muir, curator at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, will volunteer his time, and is looking to recruit other volunteers, the work is time-consuming and requires specialized knowledge—hence the need to procure professional assistance.

Collect and save the rich array of documentation, photos, news clippings, and film that exist—but need to be preserved as they are currently vulnerable to deterioration. These items are vital to “telling the story” of the junk and its transpacific voyage, and to providing the historical background of the junk, i.e. what is special about this junk, and why it has attracted the interest and support of people throughout its century-long life.

Chinese Junk Preservation seeks assistance in the following areas:

- Identification of an interim and long-term home for the junk: There is an immediate need for an interim home located in the San Francisco Bay Area. The junk would be transported by water from its current location in the Sacramento delta to a new location, where it would be lifted by crane onto land, where it can be protected and surveyed pending identification of a long-term home. There is also the need for a long-term home—and a sponsor/organization that would become the new owners of the junk. The group hopes that by generating awareness of the preservation initiative, a home and sponsor for the junk may be found.

- Fundraising: The Chinese Junk Preservation group has operated on a shoestring budget, volunteers and members’ personal funds, but needs to raise an estimated $50,000 to implement its 1-year strategy to give the junk a last chance at survival. Tax-deductible donations can be made to the group via its fiscal sponsor, the Chinese Historical Society of America (, which is the largest and oldest Chinese American historical society in the U.S. Information on how to donate can be found at the group’s website The group also seeks an experienced fundraiser to lead fundraising efforts, and volunteers to assist with outreach.

- Professional survey/documentation: The group is seeking professional assistance in surveying and documenting the junk’s construction and condition. The work is time-consuming and specialized. Ideally, the services could be secured on a pro bono or discounted basis, as the group will need to raise funds for these expenses.
Outreach: Chinese Junk Preservation welcomes interest and support in this preservation project. To find out more, help spread the word about efforts, or to make a donation, please visit

About Author: Dione Chen established Chinese Junk Preservation and is spearheading efforts to preserve the Free China vessel and the story of its transpacific voyage. She is the daughter of the late Reno Chen, who was one of the Free China crew.


Sunday, January 25, 2009


Curso Livre de Arqueologia Naval. Inscrições Abertas


Janury 25, 2009
À semelhança de anos anteriores o CIDMar/Ual vai realizar no ano de 2009 o
Curso Livre de Arqueologia Naval, organizado por módulos independentes, o
que permitirá aos interessados escolher os módulos que desejam frequentar,
segundo as suas necessidades ou preferências.

Este Curso Livre destina-se a todos os que, independentemente do seu grau
académico, se interessam pela temática do Navio em Madeira e à Vela, nas
suas diferentes vertentes, nomeadamente, a sua História e Evolução nas
diferentes épocas, a sua Construção (Tratados e Técnicas de Construção nos
Séc. XVI e XVIII) ou a vertente das Embarcações Tradicionais e a Arqueologia


Centro de Investigação e Desenvolvimento do Mar, Universidade Autónoma de

Rua de Santa Marta
47. 5.ºandar
1169-023 Lisboa

Tel. 213177619

Call Center: 800 291 291


Monday, January 12, 2009


UAL lança Mestrado em História da Náutica e Arqueologia Naval


By Vanessa Ribeiro
December 05, 2008

A Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa (UAL) anuncia o lançamento do Mestrado em História da Náutica e Arqueologia Naval, que irá decorrer a partir de Janeiro de 2009. Este ciclo de estudos, inserido no processo de Bolonha, tem como objectivo ministrar uma formação avançada nos domínios da História da Náutica e Arqueologia Naval, assim como promover o seu desenvolvimento e investigação.

Sob a direcção Cientifica do Prof. Dr. Adolfo António da Silveira Martins e do Prof. Mestre Cmd. José Manuel Malhão Pereira, o mestrado encontra-se estruturado em módulos que permitem uma formação especializada em História da Náutica, do Comércio Marítimo, Cartografia e Arqueologia do Navio.

Deste modo, os alunos podem aprofundar os seus conhecimentos nas áreas de História da Náutica e da Arqueologia Naval, especializando as suas competências no exercício das suas actividades profissionais e de investigação. Poderão ainda conhecer em profundidade, o estudo das técnicas náuticas e da sua interacção com as rotas marítimas oceânicas do Atlântico, Índico e Pacifico Oeste; incrementar conhecimentos nos domínios da Meteorologia Náutica, Astronomia de Posição, Navegação Estimada e Costeira; conhecer, manusear instrumentos náuticos e efectuar experiências de observação de astros, comparando resultados; desenvolver conhecimentos sobre a História da Cartografia Náutica, conhecer a História do Navio e da sua evolução tecnológica; aprofundar conhecimentos sobre modelos e processos de construção naval em madeira.

O Mestrado em História da Náutica e Arqueologia Naval terá a duração de dois anos, em horário pós-laboral, com uma estrutura divida em duas fases: a primeira parte será curricular e a segunda destinada à apresentação de uma dissertação original. O grau Mestre apenas será conferido após a aprovação nas disciplinas curriculares e na dissertação.

As candidaturas já estão abertas e a selecção dos candidatos será efectuada pela Comissão Coordenadora do Mestrado, tendo por base vários critérios, dos quais se salientam as classificação da licenciatura, a relevância do curriculum académico, científico e técnico e da sua experiência profissional. Os candidatos podem ainda ser submetidos a uma entrevista, sempre que tal se justifique.


Thursday, January 01, 2009


Maritime Texas Blog


January 01, 2009

We're pleased to announce the creation of Maritime Texas (, an interdisciplinary blog devoted to Texas maritime history and archaeology. Regular contributors include both professional and avocational researchers with backgrounds in history, anthropology/archaeology and other areas. Guest contributors are welcomed, as well.

Over time, the authors hope to include a range of contents including historical vignettes, <>today-in-history, book reviews, adventures/misadventures in research, field project updates, info on museums/exhibits, inland navigation, maritime photos, historic charts, travel opportunities/reports, unusual/interesting artifacts, interviews, research/fieldwork tips/tricks, or unusual stories or odd connections between seemingly unrelated events. And maybe a few current events as well.

Above all, the hope is that this new blog will provide opportunities for discussion, collaboration, and maybe some fun along the way.

Please visit Maritime Texas and subscribe the RSS feed (upper right on the page).


Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Mayor of Buenos Aires prays for gold as archaeologists raise Spanish vessel found while building apartment blockGiles Tremlett, Wednesd


By Giles Tremlett
December 31, 2008

Mayor of Buenos Aires prays for gold as archaeologists raise Spanish vessel found while building apartment block.

Archaeologist Marcelo Norman Waissell holds a cannonball near two cannon of a Spanish galleon found while excavating a Buenos Aires building site. Photograph: Marcos Brindicci/REUTERS

Construction workers excavating the foundations of a luxury apartment block overlooking the river Plate in Buenos Aires may have dug up something far more valuable than what they are building.

The workmen uncovered the well-preserved remains of a 17th-century Spanish galleon, one of thousands that carried goods across the Atlantic when Argentina was a Spanish colony.

Eight metres of silt had covered and conserved the galleon in the 300 years since it sank or was abandoned by colonists.

At that time the exclusive Puerto Madero neighbourhood of the Argentinian capital was just a beach on the shores of the Plate. "The galleon was buried under Puerto Madero, in the sedimentation of a beach where many ships used to arrive centuries ago," explained city hall officials.

Five large cannons and a cannonball were among the first objects found by archaeologists who joined the workmen to excavate the site properly.

Speculation that the galleon may be carrying treasure is rife in Buenos Aires, with even the mayor, Mauricio Macri, praying for a find. "I hope there is a great treasure trove on board," he joked. "That way we can pay for many more public works."

So far, however, the only objects dug up apart from the cannons are ropes and old jars of olive oil. The galleon appears to have sunk as it was trying to reach the port at Buenos Aires.

"We feel it must be Spanish because we have not found signs of anything English," one archaeologist, Marcelo Weissel, told La Nación newspaper. "Our hypothesis is that it is from the end of the 17th or the beginning of the 18th century because we have not found any glass recipients which started appearing from Holland around 1720." Carbon dating would eventually give a better idea of when the vessel went down, he said.

Mayor Macri ruled out handing over the galleon's contents to Spain, saying that it belonged to the people of Buenos Aires.

Hernan Lombardi, the head of the city's culture department, said the find was unique and city archeologists planned to raise the whole ship, which would later be opened to the public.

"Now is the time to get down to some careful work," he said.

Development in the Puerto Moreno district began a decade ago. A complex of apartments, shop and offices is due to go up on the site where the galleon was found.


Monday, December 15, 2008


Historic Chinese boat may be junked


By Juliana Barbassa
December 15, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO -- Half a century ago, six men with no sailing experience climbed aboard an aging Chinese junk in Taiwan and survived a typhoon that nearly wrecked the little ship. But after sailing nearly 7,000 miles across the Pacific, they were greeted by cheering crowds as they sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Now that turn-of-the-century junk, which experts say may be the last salvageable vessel of its type, could be destroyed if it does not find a permanent home by the end of December.

With it would go a piece of U.S. and Chinese history -- the boat's name, the "Free China," evokes Cold War rhetoric. But the ship also holds the unwritten knowledge of traditional Chinese boatbuilding, said Hans Van Tilburg, a historian with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"It's a rare document, a rare record of hundreds, maybe thousands of years of seafaring tradition," said Van Tilburg, who has written about the "Free China" in his book, "Chinese Junks on the Pacific." "This was never recorded. It was always an art, a skill passed down in families."

The junk is sitting in a Sacramento River Delta boatyard -- abandoned by the last of a series of volunteer caretakers after he fell behind on storage payments. And the boat yard owner has given notice that it must be removed.

The hull has integrity; the curved wooden planks bent over fire by craftsmen on China's Fujian coast are still true. But the painted eels and phoenixes that brought luck are long gone, as are the mast and the battened sails. A 13-foot section of hull was hacked off the stern so the boat would take less room in storage.

But to Dione Chen, the aging hulk evokes the stories her father, Reno Chia-Lin Chen, told about his 112-day trip from Taiwan in 1955.

He was one of five Chinese middle-class professionals who fled their homeland's communist revolution and wound up as commercial fishermen in Taiwan. The dangerous work held no future, so one of them, Paul Chow, seized upon a newspaper item about a yacht race from the U.S. to Sweden; they sent in an application to enter the contest and somehow were accepted.

"There was never going to be any other way to come to America," said Dione Chen. "There was never going to be any sponsor, any money, any job, any relative to help."

The young men had no boat, so they sold what they had -- even bikes and typewriters -- to raise money. The governor of Taiwan offered to purchase an aging junk if they would name it the "Free China," advertising Taiwan's dispute with the communist People's Republic of China.

When they applied at the American Consulate for U.S. visas, Vice Consul Calvin Mehlert -- also in his 20s -- not only granted them the papers but asked for a place on board for an adventure of a lifetime, even if it wasn't well-planned.

"I thought 'This isn't a big deal, the winds blow in that direction,"' said Mehlert, now 80. "I knew I'd never get another chance like this."

After a failed launch attempt damaged the boat, delaying their departure from Keelung harbor, a typhoon off Okinawa destroyed the junk's rigging and forced weeks of repair in Yokohama.

They had hoped to sail through the Panama Canal to join the trans- Atlantic race in July, but the delays made that impossible. The junk never left San Francisco.

And yet, the trip across the Pacific went smoothly. They even kept two chickens; photos and movies shot by Mehlert show the crew feeding the birds -- and turning one into dinner on Paul Chow's birthday.

Arriving in San Francisco, they were feted with invitations, a television appearance and a historic marker.

Chow eventually became a physics professor at California State University, Northridge, and Chen an engineer. Mehlert returned to Taiwan and served as an interpreter during President Nixon's 1972 visit.

The junk did not fare as well, said Dione Chen. "Many people were passionate about it, fell in love with it, but it never had a permanent caretaker," she said.

After Reno Chen died in Sept. 2007, Dione Chen took her children to see the junk and was moved by the sight. "It struck me that this is a unique vessel, that tells a bigger story -- of immigration, of the Chinese community, of my own family," she said. "I was on the hook. I started doing everything I could to save it."

She reached out to the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, where curator John Muir recognized the 65-foot vessel's rarity.

"It's a basically extinct vessel type," Muir said. "It's very likely one of the last remaining original vessels of this type."

However, the maritime park run by the National Park Service cannot afford to take in the vessel, Muir said.

"We're all sailors, and in the dream scenario, someone could get it to sail again," he said. "But that's a tall order."


Thursday, December 11, 2008


SS City of Launceston (1863 - 1865)


Heritage Victoria
December 11, 2008

City of Launceston (1863 - 1865) was a 368 ton Clyde-built steamship from the small Scottish shipbuilding yard of Blackwood and Gordon. Built to order for the fledgling Launceston and Melbourne Steam Navigation Company. Its early role in colonial steam shipping was the forerunner of the modern Bass Strait ferry service between Tasmania and Victoria.

For two years, and without incident, City of Launceston carried passengers (it could accommodate 188), the Royal Mail and cargo across the Strait. On November 19, 1865, the vessel was under the command of Captain Thom. Within two hours of its 7.20pm departure from Melbourne to Launceston the ship was involved in a collision with the inbound Penola from Adelaide.

The 25 passengers and 24 crew were rescued by Penola before City of Launceston sank by the stern. In the following months attempts were made to salvage the vessel using lifting chains. As a last attempt the newly patented Maquay's lifting devices were unsuccessfully deployed and left on the wreck.

According to the Argus of September 26, 1866, the Maquay lifting devices consisted of a canvas bag with a cubic capacity of 5.75 ft, and an iron cylinder weighing three hundred weight (132kg) which were kept in their places by a light wooden frame. The cylinder contained zinc cuttings which were half filled with water, while a bottle of sulphuric acid was introduced and arranged so that by pulling a line from the surface it could be broken. When the acid came in contact with the zinc and water, hydrogen gas was evolved which flowed through a tube into the bag giving it enormous lifting power. Seventeen iron cylinders have been located on the wreck.

Found in 1980 by Maritime Archaeology Association of Victoria members Terry Arnott and Barrie Heard, and fisherman Bill Cull. City of Launceston became the first wreck to be listed and protected under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1981 (Vic) (now amended and incorporated into the Victorian Heritage Act 1995).

Intact from the keel to the deck and sitting upright in a silty seabed in 21 metres of water, the shipwreck has been the subject of intensive archaeological investigations since 1997, with funding provided by the Heritage Council. A national team of maritime archaeological and conservation experts under the direction of Heritage Victoria's Maritime Heritage Unit has conducted a deck and silt survey, trial excavation, stabilisation and a full corrosion assessment of the ship's hull.

Fieldwork in March 1999 recorded the lines of the vessel. Shipbuilding plans for City of Launceston have not survived, however the lines will allow a model to be built which will accurately reflect the vessel's hull shape.

Tremendous significance

City of Launceston has tremendous archaeological and scientific significance. The vessel is representative of a period in the steam trade and it was part of the flourish of activity stimulated by the Australian colonies forging strong independent identities. City of Launceston site is unique because of the extent of its structural integrity, and the substantial archaeological deposits it contains. It is the only steamship in Victoria (and possibly Australia) to have survived with such a degree of cohesion.

Silts in the Sight Glass: Protectors and Raiders of the SS City of Launceston (1865) containing the results of all research and site surveys to date (2000) has been published by the Heritage Council.

There are no ship's plans for this unusual ship whose owners made steerage accommodation as appealing as first class. Through the work of Heritage Victoria's Maritime Heritage Unit, unique information about passenger travel in the 1860s - the quality of cabin and saloon facilities, personal space and catering arrangements for voyages and across Bass Strait - will come to light.

Trial Public Access Program 2006

City of Launceston is a very important link to colonial Victoria, sharing stories of life in 1860s Melbourne through the interpretation of the preserved archaeological relics found on the site. It also holds a special place for maritime heritage enthusiasts and researchers as it was the driving force behind the Victorian Government’s decision to introduce laws to protect shipwreck sites in this state.

For over 20 years City of Launceston was off-limits to Victoria’s recreational diving community. A protected zone has been in force on the site since 1982 – prohibiting access to the area without a permit. The Heritage Council of Victoria funded several seasons of maritime archaeology fieldwork on the site so that archaeologists could to learn about the preservation of the site and about life aboard a luxury 19th century passenger vessel. More than 400 artefacts were excavated from the site, and data was gathered to learn how the ship was built, how the ship has been transformed into an archaeological site, and how it is deteriorating. Artefacts can be viewed by searching the Heritage Victoria's Flickr webpage.

In 2004 Heritage Victoria began investigating how the site might be opened to allow divers to experience this special place. After much community consultation, a Trial Access Program was commenced in March 2006, and ran for three months. Despite many windy days, almost 150 divers accessed the site during the trial period.


Monday, November 24, 2008


Alexandria Centre for Maritime Archaeology & Underwater Cultural Heritage


On the 23rd of October 2008, the Alexandria University - Egypt announced the
inauguration of the Alexandria Centre for Maritime Archaeology & Underwater
Cultural Heritage. The Centre is the first of its kind in the Arab Region
dedicated to providing education and training at a postgraduate level in
aspects of Maritime and Underwater Archaeology.

The creation of the Centre is funded through a grant from the Trans-European
mobility scheme for university studies (Tempus), as well as a number of
corporations and private donors.

The establishment of the Centre is a collaborative project between eight
consortium members from the EU and Egypt fronted by the University of
Southampton – UK. In addition to the Alexandria University, the consortium
includes the Nautical Archaeology Society – UK, the Arab Academy for
Science, Technology and Maritime Transport - Egypt, the Supreme Council for
Antiquities – Egypt, the Centre for Alexandrian Studies – France, the
University of Ulster – UK and the Université de Provence – France.

Collectively the consortium members provide the necessary academic,
technical and administrative expertise required for the achievement of the
centre's objectives.

The Centre offers a postgraduate Diploma and Master of Arts degrees in
Maritime Archaeology and Underwater Cultural Heritage, which aims to provide
graduates from different backgrounds with a sound theoretical and
methodological foundation in the investigation, interpretation and
management of the maritime and underwater archaeological resource within its
wider context.

For more information please contact:

Alexandria Centre for Maritime Archaeology & Underwater Cultural Heritage
Faculty of Art
Alexandria University
Hussein Sobhi Street, El-Shatbi 21526

Phone: +2 010 520 3650

Fax: +203 4810 599


Monday, November 10, 2008


O tesouro mais bem guardado do mundo


By Ana Machad0
November 10, 2008

Durante 32 dias, Francisco Alves, arqueólogo, especialista em arqueologia
náutica e submarina, esteve na Sperrgebiet, a "terra proibida", a zona de
exploração diamantífera da costa atlântica de Oranjemund, na Namíbia. O
arqueólogo andou a recolher aquela que classifica como " a maior descoberta
arqueológica da África subsaariana". Uma nau portuguesa, carregada de moedas
de ouro, lingotes de cobre, presas de marfim. Ficou ali durante 500 anos, no
areal da Namíbia, destroçada após um naufrágio. Para agora se revelar. Por
Ana Machado

Pode não ser a nau que transportava Bartolomeu Dias, que naufragou em 1500.
Mas decerto é uma nau portuguesa, da rota das Índias, ou melhor, o que resta
dela após um violento naufrágio. Seguia para oriente numa data não muito
distante de 1500. Mas posterior.

Fustigada pelos musculados braços do monstro Adamastor, senhor das correntes
do Cabo, a embarcação foi esventrada pelas ondas e empurrada para a costa da
Namíbia, deixando no caminho um rasto de carga, de ossos e destroços de
navio. Tudo morreu na praia. E por lá ficou ao longo de cinco séculos.

A descoberta desta embarcação naufragada há 500 anos está a fascinar a
arqueologia náutica mundial. Em Abril passado um funcionário da Namdeb, o
consórcio do Governo da Namíbia com a multinacional de exploração
diamantífera DeBeers - que faz a exploração da região -, encontrou uma pedra
estranha enquanto extraía as preciosas pedras brilhantes das areias da
Sperrgebiet, "terra proibida". Um canhão empedernido foi a primeira peça a
revelar-se. Depois vieram mais, muitas mais.

Duas mil moedas cunhadas pelas coroas espanhola e portuguesa, 20 toneladas
de lingotes de cobre e estanho, semi-esféricos, mas também de outras formas,
algumas estranhas, cravados com o tridente dos banqueiros alemães Fugger,
que forneciam de metal a coroa Portuguesa. E ainda dezenas de presas de
marfim africano, instrumentos científicos, baixelas de estanho e restos de
candelabros, espadas, restos de ossos humanos (pelo menos uma costela e
parte de uma bacia) e até restos de chinelos em couro. Um espólio típico de
um navio que vai para o oriente, dizem os especialistas.

Isto para além de peças da estrutura do navio, de tamanho colossal, que
começaram a aparecer por todo o lado ao longo dos cerca de 600 metros
quadrados, na mina U60 da Sperrgebiet.

O local da escavação é um pedaço de terra roubado ao Atlântico, resguardado
do mar por uma parede artificial de areia com seis metros de altura. Um
carreiro de camiões encarregou-se de alimentar a muralha constantemente, ao
longo dos 32 dias de trabalhos. Só 1700 euros diários eram necessários para
esta operação, totalmente financiada pela NamDeeb. Para cá dessa parede, e
depois da água e areia aspirada (e cuidadosamente filtrada para revelar
diamantes), os achados quinhentistas foram expostos.

Numa primeira fase os trabalhos foram coordenados pelo arqueólogo
sul-africano Dieter Noli, especialista na área da Sperrgebiet. Mas era
necessária a participação de uma equipa que soubesse lidar com a raridade em
causa: uma nau quinhentista. Foi então que o nome de Francisco Alves surgiu.
A única nau quinhentista, da rota das Índias, descoberta e estudada até
hoje, a Nossa Senhora dos Mártires, em 1998, na barra do rio Tejo, foi um
trabalho da sua equipa, do Centro de Arqueologia Náutica e Subaquática, o

A equipa portuguesa

"É o achado mais importante encontrado da África subsariana, pelo menos dos
estudados por arqueólogos, exceptuando talvez a fragata de Santo António de
Tana, de final do século XVII, escavada em Mombaça no final dos anos 70,
estava a arqueologia náutica portuguesa a nascer. Não falo de pilhagens,
claro", defende Francisco Alves que reconhece o esforço do Governo da
Namíbia em resistir a "caçadores de tesouros" que assediaram as autoridades
na esperança de chegar ao achado.

Para além de Francisco Alves e Miguel Aleluia, do CNAS e de um grupo de
investigadores espanhóis indicados pelo Ministério da Cultura do país
vizinho e do Museu de Arqueologia Subaquática de Cartagena, a equipa era
ainda formada por um grupo de especialistas da Universidade de Texas A&M,
uma das melhores instituições de investigação do mundo em arqueologia
náutica, representada pela equipa do também português Filipe Vieira de
Castro. Este último também tinha participado, com Francisco Alves, nos
trabalhos da Nossa Senhora dos Martíres. Mas a participação desta equipa de
excelência, que se encarregaria agora da investigação ao pormenor e da
conservação dos achados, parece ser incerta.

"A única parte do projecto em que nós poderíamos adicionar algum
conhecimento era na conservação das concreções metálicas porque o nosso
laboratório aqui tem capacidade para radiografar e reconstruir objectos há
muito desaparecidos, mas cujos moldes ficaram preservados nas concreções,
juntamente com pólenes e traços ínfimos de exosqueletos de insectos. Mas
para isso era preciso que os governos, português e da Namíbia, nos deixassem
trazer as concreções para o Texas. E como os representantes de ambos os
países colocaram reticências a este respeito, nós não pensámos mais nisso",
adiantou ao P2 Filipe Castro.

Francisco Alves também afirma não saber nada sobre os planos para o futuro
da investigação: "Os trabalhos preliminares são muito importantes. Muitas
vezes precisamos de instrumentos de dentista. Mas tem de haver um trabalho
de equipa", diz Francisco Alves sobre uma autêntica investigação digna da
famosa série CSI. O que se passou na Sperrgebiet foi uma verdadeira
investigação forense que levou a que conseguisse fazer o levantamento de
tudo aquilo que era recuperável nos 600 metros quadrados de achados disperso
pela mina U60.

A primeira moeda de ouro

Mas a etapa seguinte não é menos importante: "Todos os pormenores surgem
agora na leitura destes vestígios delicadíssimos retirados do seu contexto.
A construção de uma embarcação tem vestígios arquitecturais, sinais
inscritos na madeira, nos quais a náutica portuguesa é muito rica", diz o
arqueólogo sobre o que agora se seguirá, uma espécie de montagem de um
puzzle muito incompleto.

Nos 32 dias passados na "terra proibida" Francisco Alves e Miguel Aleluia
conseguiram recuperar tudo o que era possível. "As surpresas eram diárias.
Temos mais de meia centena de peças estruturais do navio e foram todas
recuperadas. Tudo o que interessava e que se encontrou foi salvo dentro da
abordagem possível", diz Francisco Alves que, em quatro décadas de
arqueologia náutica encontrou, na Namíbia, a sua primeira moeda de ouro.
Mas o arqueólogo português está certo, contudo, que a rocha e a natureza
ficaram com muito mais. Uma das peças mais importantes da estrutura do
navio, o calcez, "uma peça colossal", com dois metros de comprimento, usado
para içar os panos do navio, e que estava descrita num manual de época mas
que nunca tinha sido vista, foi encontrada intacta a quatro quilómetros da
mina U60, onde decorreram os trabalhos.

Identificaram as peças e deixaram-nas num banho acuoso essencial à
conservação. Nada sairá da Namíbia, visto que a legislação do país protege
os achados encontrados em território nacional. Mas, para além das moedas de
ouro que terão sido guardadas num banco da Namíbia, tudo o resto está num
dos lugares mais seguros do mundo: "Toda a fronteira do Sperrgebit é um
'ScanEx' gigantesco, como o de controlo de bagagens nos aeroportos",
descreve Francisco Alves. Ninguém sai da zona de alta segurança da
exploração diamantífera sem ser virado do avesso. "Até as tampas das
esferográficas eram revistadas".

Por isso Francisco Alves acredita que a nau quinhentista da Rota das Índias
está a salvo. Apesar de pairar sobre este tesouro, sempre, o risco de
sucumbir ao feroz assédio do mercado internacional de antiguidades.

Sobre o valor do achado, Francisco Alves recusa-se a avançar com números:
"Recuso-me a avançar com valores. Seria inédito que algum arqueólogo
avaliasse um achado. Quanto é que vale o túmulo do Tutankamon? Isso é para
as lojas de antiguidades".

Mas são as moedas de ouro que falam mais alto. São elas que vão indicar,
pela data de cunhagem, a datação da embarcação: "Nos primeiros dias de Maio
foi encontrada uma moeda cuja cunhagem só existiu a partir de 1525. Mas só
nos podemos pronunciar quando forem todas classificadas. A cunhagem mais
recente indicará a data provável".

E é também nas cerca de duas mil moedas que se concentram as atenções em
relação a valores. As portuguesas, mais valiosas, uma vez que tinham um grau
de pureza de 999,2 por mil, representam apenas um terço da colecção. Mas
estes "portugueses" de século XVI, como se chamavam então a estas moedas,
estavam avaliados, há cerca de dez anos, conta Francisco Alves, em cerca de
50 mil euros. Cada moeda.


Saturday, November 01, 2008


November 01, 2008

Academia de Marinha, Lisboa

De dia 4 (3.ª feira) a 7 de Novembro (6.ª feira) 2008, das 10:30 às
12:45, simpósio "Os Naufrágios Portugueses e Espanhóis no Arquipélago
dos Açores" co-organizado pelas Academia de Marinha e Fundácion
Iberoamericana para el Fomento de la Cultura y Ciencias del Mar, na
sede da Academia de Marinha (Rua do Arsenal, porta H, Lisboa).

Dia 4 de Novembro

(10:45-11:00) Abertura.

(11:00-11:35) "Açores: refúgio de navegantes e regalo de malfeitores
na época moderna". Artur Teodoro de Matos.

(11:35-12:10) "Metodologia en arqueologia submarina". Carlos Leon Amores.

(12:15-12:45) Debate.

Dia 5 de Novembro

(10:30-11:05) "Da nota de rodapé ao monte de lastro: naufrágios
ibéricos na área dos Açores". Alexandre Monteiro.

(11:05-11:40) "Naufragios españoles en la carrera de Indias". Miguel
Aragón Fontenla.

(11:45-12:15) Debate.

Dia 6 de Novembro

(11:00-11:35) "A legislação internacional e nacional sobre o
património arqueológico subaquático". Neves Correia.

(11:35-12:10) "La protección juridica internacional del patrimonio
cultural subacuatico". Mariano Aznar Gomez.

(12:15-12:45) Debate

Dia 7 de Novembro

(10:30-11:05) "Tecnicas de exploracion submarina". Jorge Juan Rey Salgado.

(11:05-11:40) "A tecnologia ao serviço da arqueologia submarina".
Ventura Soares.

(11:45-12:15) Debate.

(12:30-12:45) Encerramento.

Informações: Academia de Marinha, telf. 213 255 493/6.


Monday, October 13, 2008


España indemnizó a los dueños privados del tesoro capturado por Odyssey


By Jesús García Calero
October 10, 2008

Odyssey Marine Exploration no tiene derecho ni a una sóla de las monedas rescatadas del naufragio de «La Mercedes», puesto que es un buque de Estado. Pero es que ni siquiera puede reivindicar ya las fortunas privadas que se hundieron con la fragata, puesto que España indemnizó antes de 1870 a todas las víctimas que pudieron probar que sus propiedades estaban a bordo del barco hundido a traición por el inglés el 5 octubre de 1804 (hace justo ahora 204 años). Esto es lo que se desprende de la investigación histórica y jurídica realizada por el abogado José María Lancho.

Según el citado jurista, que ha rebuscado en archivos y libros de la época, el proceso se alargó durante décadas y fue penoso para un erario exhausto por las guerras. Pero lo cierto es que, en diciembre de 1869, se emitía una Instrucción que regulaba las caducidades de las reclamaciones de aquellas víctimas que debían ser indemnizadas por el apresamiento de buques de la Real Armada a manos de Inglaterra. Al unirse con Gran Bretaña contra Napoleón, España se comprometió a resarcir a las víctimas y lo hizo.

En 1824 se abrió el plazo para reclamar por las presas realizadas por Inglaterra antes de 1808, es decir, veinte años más tarde de la catástrofe de «La Mercedes». Era la España del Vuelva usted mañana de aquel Mariano José de Larra transmutado en Fígaro, donde la burocracia podía agotar la paciencia y la energía de aquellas desesperadas familias durante varias generaciones.

Es posible, según afirma Lancho, imaginar «la situación en que se encontraban estas familias y comprender la precariedad de un Estado, el español, que apenas sobrevivía tras las guerras napoleónicas, mientras América iniciaba su proceso revolucionario y estallaban los primeros conflictos civiles» en el reinado de Fernando VII.

El caso es que el artículo 9 de esa Instrucción de 1869 explica que los demandantes de indemnizaciones debían presentar «en el plazo de un año a contar desde el 21 de julio último (de aquel 1869), en las oficinas de la deuda, bajo pena de caducidad (...) los documentos que acreditan el apresamiento del buque, el hecho del embarque del metálico, géneros y efectos apresados, el valor de estos y el del buque». Es decir, que tenían que probar su demanda.

«La Mercedes», exento

Pero el caso de «La Mercedes», y el resto de los buques apresados en la traicionera batalla del Cabo de Santa María, fue tan doloroso -provocaría la guerra con Inglaterra- que quedaban exentos de toda prueba los demandantes de «las fragatas de guerra Mercedes, Fama, Medea y Santa Clara por la notoriedad de sus apresamientos», destaca Lancho.

El motivo de que España se comprometiera a indemnizar a las víctimas no fue otro que el cambio de alianzas, tras las guerras napoleónicas que volvieron a unir como aliados a Madrid y Londres, que se habían declarado la guerra tras el hundimiento de «La Mercedes», una guerra que en el mar terminaría con la tragedia de Trafalgar.

El caso es que el resto de las víctimas de los apresamientos corsarios de los ingleses necesitaba un testimonio del Almirantazgo inglés o del Tribunal que declaró buena la presa en cada caso. Asimismo debían «aportar el protesto del capitán del buque y el testimonio expedido por la comandancia de marina en que hubiera estado matriculado el buque».

Para el hecho del embarque de bienes, un testimonio sacado del registro de la Aduana del puerto de salida o expedido por el Almirantazgo inglés o el Tribunal que declaró buena la presa. Servían también los conocimientos de los capitanes, maestres o patrones de los barcos, las pólizas de seguros. etc.

Los demandantes podían sumar otras pruebas como los testimonios de los libros de comercio. Además, aquellos que quisieran justificar la propiedad y el valor del buque, debía aportar la escritura de adquisición o certificación expedida por el Almirantazgo inglés o el Tribunal que dispuso de la presa «siempre que constara la propiedad del buque y el precio de la venta del mismo», añade Lancho. Y, por último, también se aceptaba la certificación emitida por la Comandancia de Marina a la que «hubiesen correspondido los buques apresados, donde constara la matrícula y los arqueos de verificados».

El tiempo pasaba y no todas las víctimas tuvieron la suerte de reunir la documentación necesaria. Por ello, en diciembre de 1870 aún se publicaban varias cuantiosas reclamaciones caducadas de algunos herederos. Es el caso de Faustino del Campo, que reclamaba 100.000 reales de vellón de «La Mercedes» y 2.000 de la «Santa Clara». Él y tantos otros vieron caducar sus derechos por no presentar las pruebas exigidas en el citado artículo 9.


Friday, October 10, 2008


Portugal e Namíbia vão discutir em Lisboa questão da nau portuguesa


October 10, 2008

O chefe da diplomacia da Namíbia visitará Portugal em breve e um dos temas da deslocação será o achado arqueológico subaquático de uma nau portuguesa, disse à Lusa a secretária de Estado da Cultura portuguesa.

Paula Fernandes dos Santos referiu que os trabalhos de resgate dos destroços da nau portuguesa naufragada no século XVI ao largo da Namíbia terminam hoje, e avançou que mais informações acerca do espólio e da sua importância histórica serão dadas em conferência de imprensa, a realizar no Palácio Nacional de Ajuda no próximo dia 17.

A Namíbia não ratificou a Convenção Sobre a Protecção do Património Cultural Subaquático, pelo que o espólio encontrado pertence na totalidade àquele país.

"Isso significa que nós teremos, em conjunto com as autoridades namibianas, de desencadear um processo bilateral em que procuraremos ver em que condições é que poderemos continuar a colaborar com eles", disse Paula Fernandes dos Santos.

O convite para a visita a Portugal do chefe da diplomacia namibiana, Marco Hausiku, foi feito pelo secretário de Estado dos Negócios Estrangeiros e Cooperação, João Gomes Cravinho.

"Temos acompanhado este trabalho em conjunto com o Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros. O próprio secretário de Estado João Gomes Cravinho, quanto
esteve agora em Nova Iorque para a Assembleia Geral das Nações Unidas, teve oportunidade de se encontrar com o MNE da Namíbia e falar sobre esta matéria e transmitiu-lhe um convite para vir a Portugal", referiu Paula Fernandes dos Santos.

"Não há data [para a visita]. Queremos manter estes contactos, mas não posso dizer, neste momento, sob que forma, qual a forma institucional que vai ter", frisou.

Questionada se o espólio poderá vir a ser exposto em Portugal, a secretária de Estado da Cultura preferiu não especular sobre o assunto.

"Não vamos especular sobre isso nem dizer coisas que possam não ser oportunas relativamente a isso. Pensamos que provavelmente haverá condições para que isso possa vir a ser feito, mas não discutimos formalmente com as autoridades
namibianas", salientou.

Os destroços da nau portuguesa do século XVI foram descobertos em Abril deste ano, durante uma prospecção de diamantes pelo consórcio NAMDEB, formado pelo governo da Namíbia e pela diamantífera sul-africana De Beers.

O espólio encontrado nos destroços da nau inclui objectos de ouro, prata, cobre e marfim, além de astrolábios e instrumentos de navegação quinhentistas, canhões e respectivas balas.

As operações estão a cargo de uma equipa de arqueólogos subaquáticos, em que participam os portugueses Francisco Alves e Miguel Aleluia, a convite das autoridades de Windhoek.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Más de 1.500 años de historia egipcia descubierta bajo el mar


Arqueologos de Cadiz
April 16, 2008

La exposición ‘Tesoros sumergidos de Egipto’, inaugurada ayer, permanecerá en el Matadero de Madrid hasta septiembre

La exposición Tesoros Sumergidos de Egipto, que abre sus puertas en Matadero Madrid hasta el próximo 28 de septiembre, fue inaugurada ayer por los Reyes de España.

La muestra ofrece un repaso a más de 1.500 años de historia egipcia, con los restos del legendario puerto de Alejandría, la ciudad de Heraclion y parte de la ciudad de Canopo, descubriendo así obras que se creían perdidas para siempre y que han estado sumergidas bajo el mar durante más de mil años. El acto contó con la presencia del ministro de Cultura, César Antonio Molina; el alcalde de Madrid, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón; el presidente de la Fundación Hilti, Michael Hilti; y el arqueólogo submarino Franck Goddio, descubridor de estos hallazgos en colaboración con el Consejo Superior de Antigüedades de Egipto, además de autoridades oficiales y diplomáticas.

Entre las principales piezas de esta exposición destaca la estatua de Hapi, dios de la crecida del Nilo (símbolo de fertilidad y abundancia), que es la más alta hasta ahora descubierta en Egipto. Con unos 2.000 años de antigüedad, también se presentan las colosales esculturas de granito rosa de un rey y una reina ptolemaicos, de más de cinco metros de altura cada una. Asimismo, hay piezas espectaculares como la estatua de Arsínoe II, de granito negro (S. III a. e c.), de 1,50 metros que representa a una reina ptolemaica. Es una obra única, de gran belleza, que marca un cambio a nivel artístico puesto que fue realizada por un escultor egipcio pero bajo los cánones estilísticos griegos.

La estatua, que al principió se pensó que representaba a la diosa Isis de Menutis, lleva un vestido con pliegues y el chal anudado. El tratamiento de las telas recuerda a los mármoles de factura helenística que representan una Afrodita con “ropajes mojados” que, de frente, desnudan a la persona en lugar de vestirla.

Además, los visitantes que se acerquen hasta el Matadero podrán admirar la monumental Estela de Ptolomeo, que fue hallada no lejos de los colosos, al norte del templo de Heraclion. El monolito, de 6 metros y 16 toneladas de peso, se había roto en muchos fragmentos, que fueron recuperados del yacimiento. La inscripción, parcialmente destruida, hace mención específica de Ptolomeo VIII y permite datar la estela en la segunda mitad del siglo II a. C.

Los tesoros sumergidos permanecieron en el fondo del mar, cubiertos por sedimentos llevados por el Nilo y protegidos por los revestimientos que éstos formaron sobre ellos. Los hallazgos fueron increíblemente prolíficos y de un valor superior a lo imaginable.

Las cerca de 500 piezas que componen la exposición Tesoros Sumergidos de Egipto son sólo una mínima parte del total. Entre ellas estatuas de dioses y esfinges, estelas, objetos litúrgicos y de ofrendas, cerámicas, joyería y monedas, artículos de la vida diaria y adornos de guerreros.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008


El Gobierno estudia controlar desde el aire los saqueos de barcos hundidos


La Vanguardia
By Ignacio Orovio
April 15, 2008

El sistema permitiría controlar si un barco merodea de forma reiterada un pecio Sólo Catalunya tiene un mapa completo de sitios arqueológicos, con una lista de 799.

El ojo de un satélite a decenas de kilómetros de altura podría convertirse en el vigilante de los cientos de yacimientos arqueológicos submarinos de las costas españolas, amenazados por la codicia de los cazatesoros. Tras el famoso episodio del barco estadounidense Odyssey, el Ministerio de Cultura sopesa la posibilidad de instalar un sofisticado sistema de control que integraría las coordenadas de los pecios y detectaría con fotos si estos son merodeados reiteradamente por barcos; de este modo podrían activarse sistemas de control y evitar el expolio de yacimientos submarinos.

España cuenta con un número inmenso de yacimientos de este tipo (se habla de 8.000), en buena medida barcos hundidos, de todas las épocas. Desde griegos y romanos hasta los imponentes galeones de la España moderna, algunos de ellos cargados de oro o plata, que se hundieron más o menos cerca de la costa. Con algún caramelo más reciente, como la nave británica Beatrice, que a mitad del XIX navegaba de Alejandría a Londres, cargada con el sarcófago del faraón Micerinos, entre otras cosas, cuando se fue a pique cerca de Cartagena; parece que muy cerca, dado que la tripulación alcanzó la costa a nado.

El Odyssey,origen de la alarma, extrajo hace un año un tesoro valorado en 315 millones de euros del pecio Black Swan,que la empresa sitúa "en aguas internacionales" y que el ministerio sospecha que pertenecía a un barco español. El caso está en los tribunales americanos. El director del Museu d´Arqueologia de Catalunya, Pere Izquierdo, remarca que "lo que para unos es un tesoro, para la mayoría es historia, patrimonio y conocimiento".

Todo ello, así como yacimientos que un día estuvieron en tierra firme, están a la relativa intemperie del mar. Los avances técnicos de la inmersión subacuática, el progresivo agotamiento de los sitios en tierra firme y, sobre todo, la virginidad de muchos yacimientos marinos empujan a los aficionados y los cazatesoros hacia el agua, por lo que el Ministerio de Cultura ha empezado a tomar cartas en el asunto.

"El caso del Odyssey es una desgracia, y también una suerte, porque ha removido las conciencias", dice Xavier Nieto, responsable del Centre d´Arqueologia Subaquàtica de Catalunya.

La idea de controlar a los barcos vía satélite ha sido tratada en la comisión técnica del Plan Nacional de Arqueología Submarina, formada por representantes del Ministerio de Cultura, de las comunidades autónomas, de la Armada, de la Guardia Civil y por expertos en la materia. El asunto está en plena discusión. El sistema tendría un elevadísimo coste si se llevara a la práctica, dada la cantidad de documentos por analizar, según un miembro de esta comisión. Esta impulsa la denominada carta arqueológica, con todos los yacimientos del Estado. Catalunya es la comunidad que la tiene más adelantada, con 799 emplazamientos. Andalucía ha contado unos 400, pero el resto de comunidades carece de un censo completo, según Nieto.

La empresa de arqueología Nerea, vinculada a la Universidad de Málaga, lleva tres años desarrollando la tecnología para controlar vía satélite a los saqueadores. El proyecto ha recibido 87.000 euros de la Consejería de Innovación andaluza, pero podría aplicarse, con la información de base adecuada, a cualquier costa.

"Ya es hora de que los arqueólogos aprovechemos la tecnología. Lo que está pasando con los yacimientos submarinos es una ocasión inmejorable, porque es un saqueo contra la humanidad", opina Javier Noriega, de Nerea. Varios países desarrollan sistemas similares.



In Weak Rivets, a Possible Key to Titanic’s Doom


The New York Times
By William J. Broad
April 15, 2008

Researchers have discovered that the builder of the Titanic struggled for years to obtain enough good rivets and riveters and ultimately settled on faulty materials that doomed the ship, which sank 96 years ago Tuesday.

The builder’s own archives, two scientists say, harbor evidence of a deadly mix of low quality rivets and lofty ambition as the builder labored to construct the three biggest ships in the world at once — the Titanic and two sisters, the Olympic and the Britannic.

For a decade, the scientists have argued that the storied liner went down fast after hitting an iceberg because the ship’s builder used substandard rivets that popped their heads and let tons of icy seawater rush in. More than 1,500 people died.

When the safety of the rivets was first questioned 10 years ago, the builder ignored the accusation and said it did not have an archivist who could address the issue.

Now, historians say new evidence uncovered in the archive of the builder, Harland and Wolff, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, settles the argument and finally solves the riddle of one of the most famous sinkings of all time. The company says the findings are deeply flawed.

Each of the great ships under construction required three million rivets that acted like glue to hold everything together. In a new book, the scientists say the shortages peaked during the Titanic’s construction.

“The board was in crisis mode,” one of the authors, Jennifer Hooper McCarty, who studied the archives, said in an interview. “It was constant stress. Every meeting it was, ‘There’s problems with the rivets and we need to hire more people.’ ”

Apart from the archives, the team gleaned clues from 48 rivets recovered from the hulk of the Titanic, modern tests and computer simulations. They also compared metal from the Titanic with other metals from the same era, and looked at documentation about what engineers and shipbuilders of that era considered state of the art.

The scientists say the troubles began when its ambitious building plans forced Harland and Wolff to reach beyond its usual suppliers of rivet iron and include smaller forges, as disclosed in company and British government papers. Small forges tended to have less skill and experience.

Adding to the problem, in buying iron for the Titanic’s rivets, the company ordered No. 3 bar, known as “best” — not No. 4, known as “best-best,” the scientists found. Shipbuilders of the day typically used No. 4 iron for anchors, chains and rivets, they discovered.

So the liner, whose name was meant to be synonymous with opulence, in at least one instance relied on cheaper materials.

Many of the rivets studied by the scientists — recovered from the Titanic’s resting place two miles down in the North Atlantic by divers over two decades — were found to be riddled with high concentrations of slag. A glassy residue of smelting, slag can make rivets brittle and prone to fracture.

“Some material the company bought was not rivet quality,” said the other author of the book, Timothy Foecke of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a federal agency in Gaithersburg, Md.

The company also faced shortages of skilled riveters, the archives showed. Dr. McCarty said that for a half year, from late 1911 to April 1912, when the Titanic set sail, the company’s board discussed the problem at every meeting. For instance, on Oct. 28, 1911, Lord William Pirrie, the company’s chairman, expressed concern over the lack of riveters and called for new hiring efforts.

In their research, the scientists, who are metallurgists, found that good riveting took great skill. The iron had to be heated to a precise cherry red color and beaten by the right combination of hammer blows. Mediocre work could hide problems.

“Hand riveting was tricky,” said Dr. McCarty, whose doctoral thesis at Johns Hopkins University analyzed the Titanic’s rivets.

Steel beckoned as a solution. Shipbuilders of the day were moving from iron to steel rivets, which were stronger. And machines could install them, improving workmanship.

The rival Cunard line, the scientists found, had switched to steel rivets years before, using them, for instance, throughout the Lusitania.

The scientists discovered that Harland and Wolff also used steel rivets — but only on the Titanic’s central hull, where stresses were expected to be greatest. Iron rivets were chosen for the stern and bow.

And the bow, as fate would have it, is where the iceberg struck. Studies of the wreck show that six seams opened up in the ship’s bow plates. And the damage, Dr. Foecke noted, “ends close to where the rivets transition from iron to steel.”

The scientists argue that better rivets would have probably kept the Titanic afloat long enough for rescuers to arrive before the icy plunge, saving hundreds of lives.

The researchers make their case, and detail their archive findings, in “What Really Sank the Titanic” (Citadel Press).

Reactions run from anger to admiration. James Alexander Carlisle, whose grandfather was a Titanic riveter, has bluntly denounced the rivet theory on his Web site. “No way!” Mr. Carlisle writes.

For its part, Harland and Wolff, after its long silence, now rejects the charge. “There was nothing wrong with the materials,” Joris Minne, a company spokesman, said last week. Mr. Minne noted that one of the sister ships, the Olympic, sailed without incident for 24 years, until retirement. (The Britannic sank in 1916 after hitting a mine.)

David Livingstone, a former Harland and Wolff official, called the book’s main points misleading. Mr. Livingstone said big shipyards often had to scramble. On a recent job, he noted, Harland and Wolff had to look to Romania to find welders.

Mr. Livingstone also called the slag evidence painfully circumstantial, saying no real proof linked the hull opening to bad rivets. “It’s only waffle,” he said of the team’s arguments.

But a naval historian praised the book as solving a mystery that has baffled investigators for nearly a century.

“It’s fascinating,” said Tim Trower, who reviews books for the Titanic Historical Society, a private group in Indian Orchard, Mass. “This puts in the final nail in the arguments and explains why the incident was so dramatically bad.”

The Titanic had every conceivable luxury: cafes, squash courts, a swimming pool, Turkish baths, a barbershop and three libraries. Its owners also bragged about its safety. In a brochure, the White Star Line described the ship as “designed to be unsinkable.”

On her inaugural voyage, on the night of April 14, 1912, the ship hit the iceberg around 11:40 p.m. and sank in a little more than two and a half hours. Most everyone assumed the iceberg had torn a huge gash in the starboard hull.

The discovery in 1985 of the Titanic wreck began many new inquiries. In 1996, an expedition found, beneath obscuring mud, not a large gash but six narrow slits where bow plates appeared to have parted. Naval experts suspected that rivets had popped along the seams, letting seawater rush in under high pressure.

A specialist in metal fracture, Dr. Foecke got involved in 1997, analyzing two salvaged rivets. He was astonished to find about three times more slag than occurs in modern wrought iron.

In early 1998, he and a team of marine forensic experts announced their rivet findings, calling them tentative.

Dr. Foecke, in addition to working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, also taught and lectured part time at Johns Hopkins. There he met Dr. McCarty, who got hooked on the riddle, as did her thesis adviser.

The team acquired rivets from salvors who pulled up hundreds of artifacts from the sunken liner. The scientists also collected old iron of the era — including some from the Brooklyn Bridge — to make comparisons. The new work seemed only to bolster the bad-rivet theory.

In 2003, after graduating from Johns Hopkins, Dr. McCarty traveled to England and located the Harland and Wolff archives at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, in Belfast.

She also explored the archives of the British Board of Trade, which regulated shipping and set material standards, and of Lloyd’s of London, which set shipbuilding standards. And she worked at Oxford University and obtained access to its libraries.

What emerged was a picture of a company stretched to the limit as it struggled to build the world’s three biggest ships simultaneously. Dr. McCarty also found evidence of complacency. For instance, the Board of Trade gave up testing iron for shipbuilding in 1901 because it saw iron metallurgy as a mature field, unlike the burgeoning world of steel.

Dr. McCarty said she enjoyed telling middle and high school students about the decade of rivet forensics, as well as the revelations from the British archives.

“They get really excited,” she said. “That’s why I love the story. People see it and get mesmerized.”


Monday, April 14, 2008


Odyssey no identifica el pecio, pero dice que puede ser ‘Las Mercedes’


Arqueologos de Cadiz
April 14, 2008

La empresa mantiene que le resulta imposible saber de qué barco extrajo el tesoro de la polémica · Una opción es el buque español hundido frente a Portugal

La empresa norteamericana Odyssey Marine Exploration mantiene que no le resulta posible identificar con exactitud el barco hundido del que extrajo el tesoro cuyo descubrimiento anunció el pasado mayo y así se lo ha comunicado al juez federal de Florida Mark A. Pizzo. La compañía afirma que una serie de pruebas contradictorias le impide determinar el nombre del pecio, según publicó ayer El País.

El tribunal norteamericano realizó un segundo requerimiento a Odyssey hace un mes para que aportara toda la información de la que dispusiera sobre la identidad del buque naufragado. La empresa ya había aportado alguna a España, pero el Gobierno nacional mostró su disconformidad con la escasez de datos remitidos por la firma de Greg Stemm y así se lo hizo saber a Mark A. Pizzo, que atendió las demandas del Ejecutivo. El pasado viernes Odyssey entregó nueva información y corroboró su posición desde que comenzó la polémica: le resulta imposible identificar el pecio.

El juez de Florida, no obstante, exigió a Odyssey que, en el caso de que no le pudiera poner un nombre al barco hundido, expusiera las que cree que son las hipótesis más probables. La compañía, indicó ayer El País, ha ofrecido varias posibilidades al tribunal, entre las que se encuentra que el pecio sea el Nuestra Señora de Las Mercedes, la opción más plausible para los investigadores, recordó este periódico.

Casi desde el primer momento el Gobierno sospecha que Odyssey extrajo el tesoro de Las Mercedes, barco español que se fue pique frente a las costas del Algarve portugués en 1804 en plena batalla con naves inglesas. Es decir, un buque nacional naufragado en aguas internacionales.

Es razonable pensar que si Odyssey ha aportado como posibilidad que el galeón en el que encontró el tesoro es Las Mercedes, efectivamente realizó la operación frente a Portugal, en el Atlántico. Cada nuevo episodio en este caso aleja más la teoría, candente al principio de los acontecimientos y sumamente agotada ya, de que la compañía hallara el botín en el mar de Alborán, cerca de La Línea y Gibraltar.

Está previsto que una delegación española examine hoy y mañana en Tampa las monedas que recuperó Odyssey. La comitiva tiene la esperanza de obtener pruebas y alcanzar conclusiones que confirmen sus sospechas.


Sunday, April 13, 2008


Odyssey name the mystery Black Swan treasure ship


Tipiclly Spanish
April 13, 2008

The company says the most likely probability is that the vessel is the Spanish galleon 'Nuestra Señora de la Mercedes'.

The ‘Black Swan’, the name of the vessel found by the United States treasure salvage company, Odyssey, has finally been revealed to be ‘Nuestra Señora de la Mercedes’ – a Spanish galleon which went down in a battle with the British on October 5 1804 off Faro in Portugal.

The Mercedes was loaded with gold and silver, and included the wages for the soldiers and wealth of the mercenaries travelling on board. The estimated value of the treasure recovered by Odyssey is close to 1.5 million $.

Odyssey announced the find, without naming or locating the vessel, in May last year, saying they had found 17 tons of silver coins, and at the time the Spanish Government thought that La Mercedes had been found.

The judge who is hearing the case between the two sides, Mark Pizzo, had given Odyssey 30 days to reveal the boat’s identity, but the co-founder of the company told El País on Friday that there was still some doubt as to the vessel’s identity.

Legal experts now consider that Spain will now argue that they had never searched for La Mercedes, but that does not mean that the ship had been abandoned, and because it was acting for the Spanish state at the time of the battle the Spanish Government can now reclaim her and her contents.

Odyssey however consider that the boat was not engaged in military activity when she went down, and if anyone is entitled to the contents it is the family descendents of those on board.

The legal battle is set to last for months, if not years to come.



Oro, plata y 249 cadáveres en el fondo del mar


Arqueologos de Cadiz
April 13, 2008

Los diarios de los capitanes de la batalla de Santa María reconstruyen la historia de una explosión trágica

Lo que sigue es la historia de lo que le ocurrió a la fragata La Mercedes el 5 de octubre de 1804. La narración de los hechos está basada en los datos que ofrece el capitán de navío de la Armada Española Cesáreo Fernández Duro (1830-190 en el volumen VII de su Armada Española. Él a su vez se basa en los diarios de a bordo y en algunos documentos de la época.

Son las ocho de la mañana del día 5. La fragata La Clara hace a esa hora señal de cuatro velas indicando al resto de la flota la aparición de fragatas inglesas en el mismo rumbo. La cosa está tranquila. Las noticias que han llegado de los bajeles que la escuadra se ha encontrado a su paso desde que saliera el 9 de agosto de Montevideo, sólo confirmaban la neutralidad de España en la guerra que mantenían Inglaterra y Francia. Pero el jefe de la escuadra, José Bustamante y Guerra, es hombre precavido. Ha pasado mucha mar como comandante de la corbeta Atrevida, compañero de Malaespina en la campaña científica y además ha sido gobernador político-militar de Montevideo. Así que prefiere estar preparado por si la cosa ha cambiado sin que él se enterase y ordena formar en línea con zafarrancho de combate.

Una hora más tarde, y a vista del cabo de Santa María, las fragatas inglesas se acercan por barlovento. La más grande de todas, la llamada Indefatigable, está comandada por el comodoro Moore, que acaba de mandar un bote con un oficial y un intérprete para decirle algo a Bustamante. Que tenemos orden de retener esta división y llevarla a Inglaterra y además nos vamos a quedar con todo lo que lleváis. A no ser que quieran ustedes derramamiento de sangre, en cuyo caso, a la vista está que les superamos en porte y cañones. Bustamante se lo pensó y lo consultó con sus oficiales, para concluir que mantendrían el honor si la Indefatigable y las otras tres se atrevían a atacar.

No se había separado el bote aún cuando se escuchó el primer cañonazo de aviso de Moore, los cuatro barcos se acercaron a corta distancia dando comienzo la batalla. A los pocos minutos de combate, La Mercedes salta por los aires llevándose al fondo los cadáveres de 249 de sus tripulantes y la fortuna acaudalada por soldados y mercaderes en las Indias. El resto son apresados sin mucha resistencia y llevadas a Inglaterra.

La prensa británica de la época ya tenía el colmillo que posee la de ahora y no se arredró a criticar con dureza la decisión de atacar a los españoles. “Un gran delito acaba de cometerse”, señalaba un papel de Londres. “La ley de las naciones ha padecido la violación más atroz: una potencia amiga ha sido atacada por nuestra fuerza pública en medio de una profunda paz [...] sus leales súbditos han perecido en su defensa, infestando nuestras costas sus saqueados tesoros, y, como el de un pirata, nuestro pabellón tremola sobre el débil, el infeliz y el oprimido…”.

La historia continúa con el apoyo de España a la Francia de Napoleón. La afrenta de esta batalla frente a la costa portuguesa del Algarve, y que supuso el hundimiento de La Mercedes y el apresamiento del resto de la flota, acabó con la paz entre Inglaterra y España y fue un antecedente reconocido de la batalla de Trafalgar un año después.El comodoro Moore amenazó con atacar al jefe de escuadra Bustamante




Las monedas de plata son españolas


El País
By Álvaro de Cózar
April 13, 2008

El Cisne Negro, el nombre en clave con el que Odyssey bautizó al pecio con el tesoro más valioso hallado hasta ahora en el fondo del mar, ya tiene identidad: Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes. Un buque español hundido en 1804. Odyssey Marine Exploration, la compañía estadounidense especializada en la búsqueda de pecios submarinos, anunció su hallazgo el 18 de mayo de 2007. La empresa sólo dijo entonces que se trataba de un tesoro de 500.000 monedas de plata (17 toneladas) procedente de un buque de época colonial, encontrado en un lugar indeterminado del Atlántico.

España siempre sospechó que Odyssey había expoliado La Mercedes, un mítico barco que saltó por los aires el 5 de octubre de 1804 tras un combate naval con los ingleses frente a la costa portuguesa del Algarve. Ésa es también la hipótesis de Odyssey desde hace mucho tiempo, según fuentes cercanas al caso.

Mark Pizzo, el juez que arbitra en la pelea entre España y Odyssey por los derechos del hallazgo, dio un plazo de 30 días a la empresa para que revelara la identidad del barco o bien la hipótesis más probable. En declaraciones a este periódico, Greg Stemm, el cofundador de la compañía, comentó el viernes que había dado al juez varias hipótesis, entre ellas la de La Mercedes. Stemm no especificó cuál de ellas era la más probable, pero entre bambalinas, ésa es la opción más plausible para los investigadores. Aun así, Odyssey sigue afirmando que un número indeterminado de pruebas contradictorias impide determinar con exactitud la identidad del buque.

El primer acto de la pugna legal que los abogados de ambas partes han mantenido durante todo este año en el juzgado de Tampa por los derechos sobre el hallazgo, se cierra así con la declaración de Odyssey.

La reticencia de la empresa a expresar públicamente el nombre del barco puede explicarse a través del pasado. A mediados de los noventa, Stemm y el otro cofundador de la empresa, John Morris, fueron investigados por la Comisión del Mercado de Valores de Estados Unidos bajo la sospecha de haber dado información inflada sobre un pecio que había hecho subir las acciones de la compañía. Así, pues, la idea de Stemm, según sus declaraciones, es que no debe haber más precipitaciones.

La historia está lejos de terminar. Una vez despejado el misterio, España argumentará ante el juez por qué nunca ha hecho esfuerzos por buscar y encontrar La Mercedes, es decir, le convencerá de que el buque no fue abandonado a su suerte. Si el juez ve razonables esos argumentos, el caso podría prolongarse durante años. Ambas partes reclamarían ante los tribunales estadounidenses los derechos sobre el pecio y la carga.

Las claves de esa batalla pasan por la condición legal del buque en ese tiempo. La historia da fe de que La Mercedes era un buque de guerra que participó en varias batallas. Según esa cualidad de buque de Estado, el Gobierno español podría reclamarlo. Hay jurisprudencia al respecto en al menos dos ocasiones, con los buques La Galga de Andalucía y El Juno, devueltos a España en 2000 tras ser descubiertos por una empresa de rescates submarinos también estadounidense.

Odyssey piensa otra cosa. Considera que el buque estaba realizando tareas no militares cuando se hundió. Un simple barco particular cargado con la fortuna de cientos de mercaderes y sus familias. Esas familias son importantes porque podrían dar un radical giro a la historia. O más bien sus apellidos. Si se demuestra que el barco es La Mercedes, Odyssey podría ofrecer a los descendientes la posibilidad de reclamar parte de aquella fortuna.

¿Por qué tanta generosidad? ¿Y por qué no? Cada descendiente podría tener un pedazo de oro que llevarse contento a casa. Una baratija si se compara con lo que ganaría la empresa en la Bolsa. Porque en esta larga historia que ya va a hacer el año, las monedas no tienen mucho valor intrínseco. Las 500.000 monedas de plata de El Cisne Negro podrían saturar un mercado que no cuenta con mucha gente dispuesta a pagar grandes sumas por algo que tiene todo el mundo. Porque en toda historia importa más el brillo del metal que el metal en sí mismo. Ese brillo mantiene la idea de que todos los proyectos saldrán adelante: las películas de Disney, los concursos de piratas, los libros, los documentales, los museos y las ilusiones de seguir encontrando durante mucho tiempo oro, el metal con el que todavía se siguen forjando los sueños y las pesadillas.

Ciencia y negocio, una difícil alianza
La idea de Greg Stemm y John Morris en la fundación de Odyssey Marine Exploration era unir ciencia y comercio, arqueología y beneficios. ¿Y si además se le añade el Mercado de Valores? El tintineo de las monedas en las manos de Stemm rechina en los despachos de las universidades de todo el mundo. Un dato. Según comentaba un arqueólogo de la Universidad de Tejas en la revista The New Yorker hace unos días, Odyssey no ha publicado una sola línea de información relevante para el gremio. La razón, según Odyssey, es que nunca les dejan. No han aceptado los artículos de sus arqueólogos porque su nombre se relaciona siempre con la palabra de la que la empresa no consigue desprenderse: cazatesoros. El rechazo de la ciencia hace que sus descubrimientos, incluso si son probados y útiles para la historia, caigan en saco roto. "Es difícil conjugar ciencia y negocio", señala Ángel Alloza, historiador del CSIC. "Creo que el problema en este caso es el oscurantismo y la ocultación deliberada de datos que la empresa ha hecho. Eso es lo contrario de la ciencia", concluye.


Friday, April 11, 2008


La Xunta realizará este verano una exploración de los galeones de Rande


By Jose Teo Andres
April 11, 2008

La campaña descarta la extracción de piezas y se centrará en localizar y comprobar el estado de los históricos pecios

La Consellería de Cultura iniciará este verano una nueva campaña de exploración en Rande y la Ensenada de San Simón en busca de los galeones. O más exactamente, para constatar su localización y comprobar sobre el terreno cómo se encuentran. Así lo confirmó a este diario el director de Patrimonio de la Xunta de Galicia, Felipe Arias. La investigación correrá probablemente a cargo de un gran especialista, el arqueólogo vigués Javier Luaces.

Los históricos (y muy mediáticos) galeones de Rande siguen a la espera de salir a la luz pese a haberse realizado recientemente una campaña por encargo de la Consellería de Cultura en la que se confirmó la localización de dos buques y fueron señalizados otros diez como probables, todos ellos en el área comprendida entre Rande y la Ensenada de San Simón. Ahí se realizó la ya famosa foto, en realidad una composición a través del sónar, donde se puede observar el perfil de un barco. Javier Luaces, que iba al frente de aquella expedición en la que intervenían la Universidad de Vigo y la empresa Tecmarín y el CSIC, con el buque ’Mytilus’, cree que hay pocas dudas sobre la identidad del pecio en cuestión pero que en definitiva, lo mejor es bajar y verlo. Y eso es lo que se va a hacer en unos meses.

El director de Patrimonio de la Consellería de Cultura, Felipe Arias, señaló a este diario que probablemente en verano se pondrá en marcha una iniciativa que resultará probablemente de gran interés al tratarse de un tema que roza lo legendario. En esta ocasión no se trata de buscar el famoso tesoro, o lo que pueda quedar de él, hundido con la Flota de la Plata hace casi 306 años, con Europa en plena Guerra de Sucesión, sino de algo mucho más prosaico.

’Vamos a ver en primer lugar si son los galeones para poder localizarlos con precisión. Y después, a constatar el estado de sus restos’, explicó a este diario el director de Patrimonio de la Xunta.

Lo que en ningún caso se plantea con esta operación, y en ello quiso insistir Felipe Arias, es en recuperar alguna pieza de los históricos galeones de Rande. Eso, en todo caso, quedaría para más adelante, aunque el director de Patrimonio reconoció que es poco o nada partidario de una expedición de rescate. ’A menudo es mejor dejar las cosas donde están, al menos hasta que haya medios que garanticen su recuperación sin daños. Ahora vamos a ver los pecios y las piezas que quedan y su estado’, aclaró Arias.

’Hay que bajar y verlos’

Javier Luaces ya estuvo al frente de la anterior expedición, desde la superficie, que localizó hasta una docena de supuestos restos de los galeones de Rande.

Supuestos porque admite que algunos de los pecios podrían corresponderse a barcos naufragados en otros momentos. La razón es muy sencilla: ’Esa es una zona donde está acreditado que hubo numerosos hundimientos a lo largo de los años. Sin embargo creemos que al menos cinco son casi seguros y dos, con total probabilidad son galeones’, indicó el arqueólogo.

En todo caso, admitió que es necesaria una nueva campaña sobre el terreno para ’constatar y verificar’ todos los hallazgos, y él mismo está completando un completo informe que remitirá a la Xunta donde incluso pone nombre a algunos de los pecios descubiertos. Todo un hallazgo que revolucionará los actuales conocimientos sobre la Batalla de Rande siempre que sus observaciones se confirmen plenamente.

La definitiva

Aunque todavía no ha habido confirmación oficial, espera for mar parte de esta nueva investigación, que tendría que resultar definitiva. Sobre la posibilidad de recuperar, antes o después, alguno de los galeones de forma total o parcial, reconoce que sería una operación compleja que exigiría un planteamiento estratégico y una inversión muy fuerte.

Eso sí, cree que pensar en extraer a la superficie todos los barcos sería una utopía y que en Galicia no hay infraestructura suficiente para hacerlo. ’Hay que bajar al fondo de la Ría de Vigo y verlos directamente’, concluyó Javier Luaces.

La razón es muy sencilla: ’Esa es una zona donde está acreditado que hubo numerosos hundimientos a lo largo de los años. Sin embargo creemos que al menos cinco son casi seguros y dos, con total probabilidad son galeones’, indicó el arqueólogo.

En todo caso, admitió que es necesaria una nueva campaña sobre el terreno para ’constatar y verificar’ todos los hallazgos, y él mismo está completando un completo informe que remitirá a la Xunta donde incluso pone nombre a algunos de los pecios descubiertos. Todo un hallazgo que revolucionará los actuales conocimientos sobre la Batalla de Rande siempre que sus observaciones se confirmen plenamente.



A unique anchor discovered


Turkish Daily News
By Vercihan Ziflioğlu
April 11, 2008

Professional diver Tevfik Camgöz discovers an ancient stone anchor bearing hieroglyphic inscriptions off the shores of Kyrenia, a major port city in northern Cyprus. The anchor was sent to the British Museum, where it was discovered to be 3,000 years old. Camgöz notes that his research is on going and does not give information about the coordinates of the spot

Archaeology and anthropology are two sciences trying to shed light on the lives of ancient civilizations. The main aim of all the research is to find vestiges of lost cultures and civilizations, to decode the code of the universe, and hence, life.

Ancient Egypt, with its aura of mystery, is one of the most important civilizations among the cultures of Antiquity and continues to attract the attention of scientists. As the pharaohs refuse to give up their secrets, science takes a further step toward unveiling what has been hidden for millennia.

Last year, a stone anchor bearing hieroglyphic inscriptions was discovered, by chance, off the shores of Kyrenia, a significant port city in northern Cyprus. Examined by professional diver Tevfik Camgöz, the historic artifact was sent by authorities in northern Cyprus to the British Museum's Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan. After a number of examinations, experts found the anchor to be 3,000 years old and that it has no equal in the world.

Camgöz refrained from giving concrete information about the coordinates of the spot where he found the anchor. Noting that research is ongoing, Camgöz said, “the main goal of the examinations conducted on the hieroglyphics inscribed on the stone anchor is to discover why the Pharaoh sailed the waters of Cyprus. That journey by the Pharaoh might change history fundamentally.”

History of humanity hidden beneath northern Cypriot shores

Camgöz's adventures in diving began when he was a 4-year-old. He performed his first dive when he was 15 and made many other dives in the waters of Turkey and northern Cyprus later in his life. He continued to search for the unknown under international waters as well. But it was the waters of northern Cyprus that attracted him the most. “North Cyprus is very rich in terms of underwater archaeology. An unbelievable treasure of sunken cities, ships, amphorae, and sculptures is hidden beneath the shores of North Cyprus.”

Camgöz founded the Nautilus Diving School, the only diving school in northern Cyprus, five years ago. It is the only dive center to be awarded a grant by the United Nations Development Programme and Office for Project Services (UNDP-UNOPS).

Behind a curtain of secrecy

Camgöz found, by chance, the invaluable anchor that belonged to an erstwhile pharaoh. “One day, nine years ago, I was trying to discover diving spots in Kyrenia, a mile offshore.” Exploring at a depth of 20 meters, an object caught his eye. After a few minutes, Camgöz decided that it was just an illusion and surfaced.

Last year, Camgöz made another dive at a spot near the location where he had made that dive nine years earlier. It was during that dive that he found the stone anchor. When he moved it slightly, he saw some hieroglyphics on its back surface.

“I immediately recognized the hieroglyphics. I was running low on air. That's why I had to surface,” he said. A second dive to further examine the anchor resulted in the discovery of a few other historic artifacts located close to the anchor. He went on a third dive with students from the North Cyprus Campus of the Middle East Technical University to conduct scanning and inventory studies. A fourth dive was undertaken with a professional team, led by underwater archaeologist Enver Gürsoy, during which the coordinates of the site were recorded and photographs were taken. Camgöz said all the studies were undertaken under the supervision of northern Cyprus' Office of Historical Monuments.

Coordinates not revealed

The anchor with the hieroglyphics was then sent to the British Museum to decipher the hieroglyphics. “After an initial examination, some of the hieroglyphics were decoded. The inscriptions included information about the pharaoh's Cyprus expedition,” said Camgöz.

What that discovery could fully yield is unclear for now as examinations on the ancient anchor have not yet been completed. “Studies have focused on the question of why the pharaoh conducted expeditions into the waters off Cyprus. Currently, we don't have adequate information, but experts have determined that this ancient anchor has no equal in all the world,” said Camgöz.

Funds insufficient for underwater archaeology

Camgöz said underwater archaeology is an evolving field, both in Turkey and northern Cyprus. “But funds are insufficient. There is a great need for financial support.” Cyprus' waters are available for diving throughout the year. The water temperature ranges between 16 and 20 degrees centigrade while diving depths range between 30 and 40 meters. Camgöz also produces underwater documentaries. Two years ago, together with Turkish state broadcaster, TRT, he prepared a documentary called “Blue Depths of Green Island” about northern Cyprus' underwater life and diversity of fish. The Web page of Camgöz's diving school is:


Thursday, April 10, 2008


Cultura decide dejar en el mar los restos de un barco del siglo XV localizados por azar en Xove


La Voz de Galicia
April 10, 2008

Aduce que extraerlos del fondo aceleraría su deterioro y resultaría muy costoso

No es definitivo, pero los restos de la embarcación que se fue a pique en la costa de Xove hace unos quinientos años continuarán en el fondo del mar, protegidos, como hasta ahora, por el túmulo de arena formado en los años posteriores al hundimiento. A la espera de analizar con detalle el informe preliminar del equipo de arqueólogos contratado para valorar el hallazgo, la Consellería de Cultura opta inicialmente por dejar el pecio tal cual está, sin excavar.

Eso sí, el lugar será uno de los que se incluirán en el inventario de pecios de la costa gallega, ya en fase de elaboración. Los vestigios localizados serán inventariados y señalizados, explicaron fuentes de Cultura. Solo en caso de detectarse riesgo de pérdida o de destrucción de alguna de las piezas que se encuentran en el fondo marino, se valoraría la posibilidad de extraerla, para intentar conservarla.

Datados entre finales del siglo XV y principios del XVI, los restos han llegado hasta nuestros días porque han estado resguardados por arena que fue cubriéndolos y apelmazándose. Recuperarlos del fondo marino entraña un importante peligro para su conservación, porque al contacto con el aire su deterioro se acelera hasta el punto de que podrían perderse para siempre. Evitarlo requiere de un complejo y prolongado proceso de tratamiento, para impedir que el cambio de atmósfera los destruya.

Piezas recuperadas
Es una de las razones esgrimidas por Cultura para decidir que continúen en el mar. No la única, porque el elevado coste de la excavación y de la extracción también ha influido en el acuerdo inicial adoptado por los técnicos de Patrimonio de la Xunta, añadieron las fuentes de ese departamento consultadas.

Por azar, una draga que retiraba lodos en la ensenada de A Coba, en el entorno de la playa de Lago, extrajo tres piezas de artillería (el servidor de una bombarda, un falconete de de hierro y la cureña de una ballesta), así como ocho piezas de una vajilla de cuatro tamaños diferentes y una de pie, estilizada, que todavía conserva la tapa. Todos están siendo tratados en el Museo do Mar de Vigo, donde cuentan con los equipos necesarios para procurar que el contacto con el aire no los destruya.

Cultura todavía no ha adoptado ninguna decisión acerca del lugar donde serán expuestos, una vez concluya el proceso de recuperación.


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