An intact 500-year-old shipwreck has been found in what is described as a “astonishing” state of preservation, at a depth of 120m in the Baltic Sea.
The ship, believed to be the best-preserved of the Renaissance period to be discovered in recent times, has been investigated by an international team of scientists using what they describe as the latest in underwater robotics.
It originally showed up as a seabed disturbance on a Swedish Maritime Administration sonar-scan 10 years ago but only now, following an ROV survey by specialist company MMT from the research vessel Stril Explorer, has it been identified as having “great archaeological and historical significance”.
The expedition was led by Dr Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz, MMT’s maritime and deep-sea archaeological expert, in collaboration with the University of Southampton’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology, Deep Sea Productions and the Maritime Archaeology Research Institute of Södertörn University in Sweden.
The ship’s hull structure has been preserved from the keel to the top deck, says the University of Southampton, with all masts and some elements of the standing rigging still in place.
Clearly visible are the bowsprit and a rudimentary decorated transom stern, it says, as well as other rarely seen elements, such as the wooden capstan and bilge pump. Swivel guns remain in place on the gun-deck.
“This ship is contemporary to the times of Christopher Columbus and Leonardo Da Vinci, yet it demonstrates a remarkable level of preservation after 500 years at the bottom of the sea, thanks to the cold, brackish waters of the Baltic,” said Dr Pacheco-Ruiz. “It’s almost like it sank yesterday – masts in place and hull intact.
“Still on the main deck is an incredibly rare find – the tender boat, used to ferry crew to and from the ship, leaning against the main mast. It’s a truly astonishing sight.”
The experts’ dating of the ship to the turn of the 15th/16th centuries places it earlier even than the Tudor ship the Mary Rose, as well as the celebrated Swedish warship wrecks the Mars and the Vasa.
MMT and the University of Southampton also collaborate regularly on Black Sea exploration. They have discovered and surveyed more than 65 “perfectly preserved” deep shipwrecks there, dating back to Ottoman, Byzantine Roman and Greek periods.
DIVER Magazine begins a two-part feature on scuba diving well-preserved Baltic shipwrecks in Sweden, Finland and Estonia from October.
Also read: Lethal WW1 U-boat surveyed off Yorkshire