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In Mexico, archaeologists have discovered a wreck that is 200 years old

Listen to this article Off the coast of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, in the waters of the Caribbean Sea, underwater archaeologists have discovered and examined a shipwreck that is at least 200 years old. According to the researchers’ findings, the vessel probably sank after colliding with a nearby reef. The researchers received information
Published: May 28, 2020 - 12:35
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 19:54
In Mexico, archaeologists have discovered a wreck that is 200 years old
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Off the coast of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, in the waters of the Caribbean Sea, underwater archaeologists have discovered and examined a shipwreck that is at least 200 years old. According to the researchers’ findings, the vessel probably sank after colliding with a nearby reef. The researchers received information about the find from a local fisherman.

Unfortunately, the local waters are not the kindest when it comes to wooden wrecks. This is due to the presence of the shipworm, an invasive species of mollusc which feeds on cellulose, and therefore on wood. In effect, this means that the wrecks of historic ships and vessels do not stand the slightest chance of being preserved.

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And although the hull of the found vessel shared the fate of many others and did not survive to our times, metal elements of equipment were found, including a large, 2.5-metre anchor or cannons. The whole is an extremely interesting archaeological site, with which researchers associate considerable expectations.

The wreck was found in the waters of the Banco Chinchorro atoll reef, at a location about 35 km from the village of Mahahual. This dangerous area is referred to as the ‘Nightmare Reef’ or ‘Sleep Robbing Reef’ and has been the site of many vessels sinking.

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According to the findings of archaeologists, the wreck under examination probably dates from the late 18th or early 19th century. A hypothesis has also been put forward that these are the remains of an English vessel, but further work will be necessary to verify this theory.

Investigation of the site and documentation was made possible by information from a local fisherman, who first spotted it and reported it to the Mexican National Archaeological Institute (INAH). In recognition of this merit, the wreck was christened with his name and has since been known as Manuel Polanco.

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It is impossible to ignore the fact that the fisherman in question is already 80 years old and contributed to several spectacular discoveries which took place here in the 1960s and 1970s. These included the wreck called “40 cannons” (40 cañones) and “The Angel”, the wreck of a sailing ship transporting campechia mantis, a natural source of purple pigment, from Mexico to Europe.

The Mexican authorities have placed the local waters under special protection as an area of particular importance for the region’s historical and cultural heritage, due to the many wrecks lying on the surrounding seabed. The most impressive of these are two Spanish galleons. To make it easier to imagine, Manuel Polanco is… the 70th known wreck found in the area.

Source: bbc.com, INAH

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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