‘It’s almost like it sank yesterday’: Perfectly-preserved ship found from the time of Columbus, Da Vinci

Maritime archeologists recently found a incredibly well-preserved ship from the Age of Discovery in the Baltic Sea, and were amazed the 500-600 year old vessel was in such good shape. As Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz of survey specialists MMT noted:

“It’s almost like it sank yesterday.”

The anchor of the submerged ship is clearly visible in this shot. (Via YouTube)

How could a ship over a half-century old be in such pristine condition? That’s likely due to the conditions in the Baltic Sea, according to Science Alert:

“The cold, slightly salty, hypoxic waters of the Baltic Sea’s deeper waters” helped preserve the vessel.

The age of the ship makes it a contemporary of those used by Christopher Columbus, Pacheco-Ruiz remarked:

“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.”

Replica of the Columbus ship the Santa Maria. The shipwreck discovered was a of similar build. (Ralf Roletschek / Public Domain)

A hint of what might lie at the bottom of the Baltic Sea came in 2009, Science Alert reports:

“The first hints that there was something on the seabed 140 metres (460 feet) below the surface of those brackish waters came in 2009, when side-scan sonar wielded by the Swedish Maritime Administration revealed something out of the ordinary.

“But it wasn’t until a decade later – earlier this year – that the full significance of the wreck was actually revealed. And it was entirely by accident. MMT was employed to survey the seafloor ahead of laying a natural gas pipeline; and there, emerging from the gloom, was a tall ship.”

Even the smallest details of the ancient ship were in place, down to the masts and the tender boat, which was used to ferry the crew to and from the ship:

“The masts of the ship were still in place and the hull is complete. On the main deck, leaning against the main mast, the scientists found a small boat that was likely used to transport the crew to and from the ship. They also found swivel guns on the main deck, some still neatly packed away in gun ports. Two swivel guns were still aimed in the firing position.”

Researchers are amazed that the ship was preserved in such excellent condition. (Via YouTube)

But what sank the ship? Was it taken down in battle? Ancient Origins speculates it might well have met its fate in a skirmish:

“Another aspect of the shipwreck that is mysterious is how it sank. It could have gone down in a storm, which was common at the time. The Independent reports that the ship’s guns being in their ‘ready to fire’ positions” would indicate that it was involved in some battle or engagement, which may have resulted in its sinking.”

The team from MMT will return to the wreck next year for more study.

Explore the depths of the Baltic Sea that hid this ship for centuries with this video:

Featured Image Via MMT / University of Southampton

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