Newly published research from a wreck discovered more than two
decades ago sheds light on the scientific side of shipwreck recovery.
Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc., Tampa, Fla., is releasing a new
series of scientific papers exploring multiple facets of the 17th
century Tortugas shipwreck believed to be the remains of the 117-ton
Buen Jesús y Nuestra Señora del Rosario. The ship was one of the
vessels sailing with the 1622 Tierra Firme treasure fleet bound for
Spain (the group included the famous Nuestra Senora de Atocha).
Seahawk Deep Ocean Technology discovered the wreck in 1989 south
of the Tortugas Islands in the Straits of Florida at a depth of 405
meters (1,329 feet). Odyssey Marine Exploration today owns and
exhibits items recovered from the wreck.
Excavation began in 1990 and continued in 1991, marking the
world’s first comprehensive robotic archaeological excavation of a
deep-sea shipwreck, according to Odyssey Marine. A total of 16,903
artifacts were recovered by a remotely operated vehicle. The artifacts
include gold bars, silver coins, pearls, ceramics, beads, glassware,
astrolabes, tortoiseshell, animal bones and seeds.
Six separate research papers explore aspects of the technology
employed in locating and recovering the wreck, the wreck site itself,
the artifacts and bones found in the wreck, and the coins recovered.
The research has been published both as PDF documents for
downloading and as a printed book: Oceans Odyssey 3: The Deep-Sea
Tortugas Shipwreck, Straits of Florida: A Merchant Vessel from
Spain’s 1622 Tierra Firme Fleet.
According to Odyssey, the Tortugas shipwreck reflects the daily
life of trade with the Americas at the end of the Golden Age of Spain.
The wreck was also important, according to Greg Stemm, Odyssey Marine
Exploration’s CEO, because archaeologists had hoped deepwater wrecks
would be better preserved than shallow water finds, presumably because
of the frigid temperatures of deeper waters (they were not). Exploring
and working on the wreck also answered questions about conducting
archaeological fieldwork using robotics, which was successful,
according to Odyssey Marine.
A virtual exhibit may be viewed at www.OdysseysVirtualMuseum.com.
The research papers may be downloaded at www.shipwreck.net/tortugaspapers.php,
and the 201-page book may be ordered for $39.95 from David Brown Books
at www.oxbowbooks.com or