Sonar anomaly leads to the discovery of 500 year old shipwreck in the north sea

A sonar anomaly in the north sea ended a 16th-century shipwreck.
(Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency)

Salvagers looking for steel containers on the bottom of the north sea have discovered that there is a 500-year-old Dutch shipwreck holding a cargo of tons of copper.

The researchers were with the ship-borne sonar to find steel containers that fell off of the ship MSC Zoe during a storm in January, when she spotted something on the sea floor north of the Dutch island of Terschelling.

The thinking of the sonar anomaly could be a sunken container, they sent down a mechanical hook — and-raised, instead of some tribes from the 16th-century shipwreck, and nearly five tonnes (4,700 kg) of its precious cargo of copper plates. [Mayday! 17 Mysterious Shipwrecks that You Can See on Google Earth]

Martijn Manders, who is the head of the international maritime archaeology program the Cultural Heritage agency (rce), told Science that the shipwreck could be the oldest yet found in the Dutch waters of the north sea.

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The reclaimed wood showed the 100-metre-long (30-metre) ship was built in the 1540s, around the time that the medieval Dutch method of building hulls with overlapping planks, known as “clinker,” was replaced by the more advanced “caravel” style of flat boards nailed on a wooden frame.

The carvel style, learned from the Mediterranean sea, was necessary for the larger vessels with hulls that leaked less easily in heavy waves, and would be used in later centuries by the large Dutch ships and trade all over the world.

The newly discovered shipwreck could be a “missing link” in the Dutch shipbuilding industry, Manders said. The wood show that it was built with the help of a temporary framework of small outer boards, which are an intermediate stage between the traditional shipbuilding techniques and the new caravel style.

Copper for coins

Archaeologists think that the ship was on a journey from the Baltic Sea and was on her way to Antwerp (now in Belgium, but in the beginning of the 1500s was in the Netherlands) when it sank. The load of copper on board could represent one of the earliest uses of copper for coins in Europe.

The stamps on the copper plates showed that they were made by the wealthy Fugger family of Germany, Manders said, adding that chemical tests on the metal showed it was identical to the first copper coins used in the Netherlands.

Cities in the Netherlands were the early adopters of copper coins in the 16th century, when the currency was first introduced as an affordable alternative for payments in gold and silver coins and barter, ” he said.

The shipwreck, therefore, represents the three most important developments in the history of the netherlands: a significant change in shipbuilding techniques, the growth of the Dutch economy after 1500, and the introduction of copper coins. “So We have three things that make this such an exceptional ship, without having dived on the ship yet,” Manders said.

The boards brought in by the shed to grab from the seabed showed no evidence of infection with shipworm and were in remarkably good condition, ” he said. Maritime archaeologists hope to make their first dive to the wreck this summer. Until then, the shipwreck site is being viewed by the Dutch coast guard.

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Original article on Live Science.

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