Shipwreck From Explorer Vasco da Gama's Fleet Discovered

March 15, 2016 - After 18 years of research, excavations and archaeological analysis, National Geographic grantee David Mearns has successfully discovered one of Vasco da Gama's ships lost at sea in 1503 off the coast of present-day Oman. Together with the Oman Ministry of Heritage and Culture and over 50 crew members they found thousands of artifacts including gold coins, canonballs, ceramics, and a ship's bell that helped them confirm the age and provenance of the ship.

When Oman's Ministry of Heritage and Culture recently announced the discovery of a 500-year-old shipwreck from the fleet of famed explorer Vasco da Gama, it marked the culmination of an 18-year archaeological search and recovery effort led by self-described "shipwreck hunter" David Mearns of Blue Water Recoveries Ltd.  

"Where most archaeologists study wrecks that have already been found, with this one we actually set out to find it," he says, beginning with an eyewitness account of the Esmeralda, the ship of da Gama's uncle, Vincente Sodré, sinking in the waters off of Al Hallaniyah Island in the Arabian Sea. 

The project team, a partnership between Oman's Ministry of Heritage and Culture and Blue Water Recoveries and supported by the National Geographic Society Expeditions Council, spent three seasons mapping and excavating the wreck site. The remote location and complexity of the shipwreck required a wide array of technology—from magnetometers and differential GPS, to airlifts that work like "underwater vacuums"—and a number of specialists to operate it.  

Take a behind-the-scenes look at what it took to locate and excavate the earliest shipwreck we have from Europe's Golden Age of Exploration.  

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