How Sonar Discovered a 16th Century Shipwreck by Accident

From Popular Mechanics

A team of salvagers trying to find old shipping containers has made a discovery of a lifetime: a 500-year-old shipwreck with a cargo of several tons of copper.

The salvagers were hunting for steel cargo containers that fell off the MSC Zoe a few months ago in the North Sea. They were using sonar to identify the containers at the bottom of the ocean and noticed an anomalous reading. When the team sent down a mechanical grab tool to investigate, it returned several ancient timbers and nearly five tons of copper.

Photo credit: Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency

Those timbers indicated that the ship in question sank sometime in the mid-1500s, and its location suggests it was built in the Netherlands. Researchers guessed that the ship was carrying the copper from the Baltic Sea to Antwerp to mint coins.

Both of these facts are of huge historical importance. The timber shows how Dutch shipbuilders were adapting their style to match the more advanced Mediterranean shipbuilders, and the technique they were developing on the newly-discovered ship would be perfected over the next few decades and enable Dutch merchants to sail around the world.

The copper, likewise, would have become some of the first copper coins in Europe if it hadn’t sunk. The Netherlands were in the process of introducing copper coins to be a lower currency denomination in the mid-1500s, and tests on the copper showed it to be chemically identical to other coins from that era.

There’s still an entire ship underneath the waves, so the Dutch coast guard is keeping an eye on the area for now. Researchers are preparing to explore the wreck sometime in the summer months, so we’ll have to wait until then to learn more about this unique ship.

Source: LiveScience

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