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A diver investigates the wreck off San Pedro Alcántara. SUR
Solving the mystery of the San Pedro Alcántara shipwreck
History

Solving the mystery of the San Pedro Alcántara shipwreck

Nine archaeologists are analysing the remains of a ship that they believe could be El Fernando which sank in 1760

Andrea Jiménez

Wednesday, 27 September 2023, 12:10

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Two decades ago a diver discovered the remains of a ship off the coast of San Pedro Alcántara. Since then, the Centre for Underwater Archaeology (CAS) has been working uncover the mystery and nine professionals are currently analysing the remains to confirm whether they are from the El Fernando, which sank in 1760.

So far archaeologists have documented artefacts connected with the naval structure of a large military ship typical of the era. They include artillery and small metal objects such as buttons, buckles, clasps and pieces of rifles, according to the CAS, which is part of the Andalusian Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport through the Andalusian Historical Heritage Institute (IAPH).

The sunken ship was affectionately known among divers as the San Pedro Alcántara galleon and the enthusiasts even discovered a leather ammunition box with the Royal Spanish Navy’s coat of arms, which was used during an extensive period of time from 1537 onwards.

The ship is located on the seabed at a depth of between four and seven metres. All the remains of the wreck are concentrated in a space of approximately 60-65 metres long and 12 metres wide, according to CAS data.

Analysis

Following the analysis of historical documentation located in 2018 in the General Archive of Simancas, the wreck could correspond to a Spanish military vessel built in the mid-18th century between 1750 and 1751.

This archive also contains several reports with inventories of the material recovered, including artillery, small arms, shipbuilding elements, rigging, sails, masts, clothing and personal effects belonging to the crew. Some documents mention references to the Asia, which together with the Astuto was sent to transfer the rescued crew from Malaga port to the Cartagena Arsenal.

The work is being coordinated by the director of the CAS, Milagros Alzaga, with the support of Marbella town hall and two professors from the university of Alicante and a researcher from the CSIC are participating.

The project aims to determine the current state of the wreck and to document through archaeological work any relevant data that will establish its identity. Once the final report is ready the future of the wreck will be decided.

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