Shipwreck of 500-Year-Old Vessel Discovered in Baltic Sea Looks ‘Like it Sank Yesterday’

Credit: Deep Sea Productions/MMT
Credit: Deep Sea Productions/MMT

An international team of scientists has announced the discovery of a shipwreck. The 500-year-old ship remains pristinely intact in the cold, dark depths of the Baltic Sea.

Scientists say the shipwreck is perhaps the best preserved shipwreck of its period yet to be discovered.

It was first detected in 2009 by the Swedish Maritime Administration using state-of-the-art sonar. For years it went unexplored until earlier this year when, as part of work carried out by survey specialists MMT, the wreck was identified as having great archaeological and historical significance.

Further inspection of the wreck was led by Dr. Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz, MMT’s maritime archaeologist and deep sea archaeological expert together with the Centre for Maritime Archaeology (CMA) at the University of Southampton, Deep Sea Productions and the Maritime Archaeology Research Institute of Södertörn University (MARIS).

“This ship is contemporary to the times of Christopher Columbus and Leonardo Da Vinci, yet it demonstrates a remarkable level of preservation after five hundred years at the bottom of the sea, thanks to the cold, brackish waters of the Baltic,” said Dr Pacheco-Ruiz, who is also a Visiting Fellow in Maritime Archaeology at Southampton.

“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,” he added.

An archaeological survey has determined that the shipwreck could date to Early Modern Period, between the late 15th Century and the early 16th Century. This would place it earlier than the warship Mars, which sank after an explosion in the First Battle of Öland in 1564 and Henry the VIII’s Mary Rose (1510-1545 AD) as well as the Swedish warship Vasa (1628 AD), according to the researchers.

“The dating of this wreck underlines the importance of the discovery,” Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz wrote in an article about the discovery. “It is rare to find a ship in such an astonishing condition that predates the larger and more powerful vessels involved in the later Northern Seven Year’s Wars (1563-1570) – a period of great importance which defined the path of modernisation of Scandinavian nations.”

“Unlike the scattered remains of the Mars, which exploded in battle, this newly discovered wreck lies on the seabed with her hull structure preserved from the keel to the top deck and all of her masts and some elements of the standing rigging still in place. Clearly visible are the bowsprit and a rudimentary decorated transom stern, as well as other rarely seen elements, such as the wooden capstan and bilge pump. A testament to the tension on human relationships of the time are the swivel guns, which are still in place on the gun deck.” noted Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz.

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