Thursday, September 08, 2005


19th century Spanish gunboat discovered

By Juan Escandor Jr.
September 02, 2005

CARAMOAN, Camarines Sur—A 19th century Spanish gunboat wreck was discovered last week off the coast of this town when a team of divers assessing the coastal environment here accidentally stumbled on it.

Gov. Luis Raymund Villafuerte said the wreckage, believed to be that of the Spanish gunboat Elcano, was detected submerged through a sound-tracking device at 8 to 44 meters deep.

Villafuerte said the team of divers lead by marine biologist Dr. Antonio Mines were scouring the waters off the coast of Cabacogan, Caramoan when the shipwreck appeared on the radar screen.

“It was an amazing find. Its historical value could be enormous, (it) might lead to the discovery of several unknown details of what a Spanish gunboat was and the war materiel of that period,” he said.

Villafuerte said follow-up exploration shall be conducted to further authenticate, assess, protect and preserve artifacts that could still be salvaged from the wreckage.

He said some locals have told them that unidentified persons have dived in the area and may have taken some artifacts before his team of divers discovered it on Aug. 24.

Citing historical records, Bicol historian Prof. Danilo Gerona revealed that the gunboat Elcano had been around the Bicol area in the late 1898.

Gerona said the gunboat was sent to Bicol by the Spanish colonial government to thwart the advance of the revolution here.

He said that on Nov. 7, 1898, the gunboats Elcano and Paragua entered Sorsogon Bay in search of ships flying insurgent flags.

When the two ships entered Sorsogon Bay, Gerona said, an English subject and a resident of Sorsogon town only identified as a Mr. Gibson inquired about the intention of the two Spanish gunboats.

The Bicol historian said Gibson sent a messenger boat bearing a white flag and was told by Spanish officers that they came to capture the insurgent ships reported anchored by the bay.

He said that when they were told that the insurgent ships have left, the Spaniards fired seven cannon shots toward the town of Sorsogon.

Gerona said that the gunboats Elcano and Paragua then veered toward the adjoining town of Casiguran and fired three more shots.

But he said no damage was recorded either in Sorsogon or Casiguran.

Citing historical records, Gerona said the two Spanish gunboats then headed to Burias Pass.

Mines said the shipwreck measures 15 meters wide and six meters high. It seems to have been cannibalized.

He said it settled some 750 meters off the Lingatin Peak near a sharp drop in the ocean floor.


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