500-year-old gold-laden wreck found in Namibian desert
Diamond miners recently discovered a ship that sank 500 years ago after emptying an artificial lagoon on the Namibian coast. While wrecks are often found along the Skeleton Coast in Africa, it was loaded with $ 13,000,000 in gold coins.
It also answers a centuries-old mystery and it’s what some archaeologists call one of the most significant wrecks ever discovered.
The wreck was first discovered along the coast near Oranjemund by geologists from mining company De Beers in April 2008. One of the reasons it took centuries to find it is that it was under the bottom of the ocean.
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“The affected mine site was actually located in the surf zone, where violent wave action theoretically made mining impossible,” archaeologist Dr Dieter Noli told FoxNews.com. “So what the guys are doing is pushing a huge dike with bulldozers parallel to the beach, the ends coming back to the beach. The result is a large man-made lagoon, with waves breaking outside. Then they pump the seawater out of the lagoon.
It is in this dry lagoon that the wreck was discovered. Noli, who is chief archaeologist at the Institute for Maritime Archaeological Research in Southern Africa, was not too surprised – with the abundance of wrecks on the coast (Portuguese sailors once called it “the gates of hell ‘), he knew that geologists would turn something sooner or later.
“Having started doing archaeological work … for the mine in 1996, I then preached to them for a dozen years that” one day “they would find a wreck, and let me know when they would”, a- he declared. Foxnews.com. “When I was asked what exactly I was really expecting to find, I said “a Spanish sword and a bag of gold”.
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A day after the discovery, geologists informed Noli that they had found “weird stuff” on the beach – pieces of metal, wood, copper hemispheres and what looked like copper or copper pipes. bronze. They emailed him an image of one of the “pipes,” which Noli immediately recognized as a 16th century artillery piece.
“I called [Chief geologist Juergen Jacob] and told him that these pipes were in fact old breech-loading cannons. ‘How old?’ he wanted to know. “1535, plus or minus two months,” I suggested. Given that the ship dates from 1533, that was a pretty close guess! “
Although there are many wrecks in the area, almost all of them are “recent”, meaning that they have only sunk in the last 120 years or so. . The oldest wreck found in the area at that time was Flushing, who landed in Meob Bay in 1747.
Upon arriving at the site, Noli realized fairly quickly that this new find would be the oldest to date.
“Once [there], the copper hemispheres baffled me, ”he said. “But then I saw the wooden butt of a matchlock musket stretched out at my feet. Picking it up, I saw that the styling of the butt – made to fit the cheek rather than the shoulder – indicated that it was from the turn of the century, matching the age of the guns. At that time I knew we had an early 16th century ship and that there would be a lot to find in great condition, because if a musket’s stock had survived, A LOT of other stuff had it. would have done too.
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Once they realized what they had in their hands, Noli tried to convince Namdeb Corp. maintenance of the dike, 24/7 work for two D-9 bulldozers, a fleet of trucks and really huge pumps. In the end, he just let the loot footage from the dig do the talking.
According to Noli, “Luckily we found the treasure chest on the sixth day. The academic arguments are all pretty good, but once you’ve literally filled your hat with a mix of 25.5 pounds of Spanish gold coins and Portuguese (there were also swords), the value of the site is no longer in doubt.
The vessel has been identified as The Good Jesus, or “The Bom Jesus”, a Portuguese ship that disappeared 500 years ago on its way to India. The ship was loaded with gold, tin, ivory tusks and 44,000 pounds of copper ingots when it apparently went to its aquatic tomb. In fact, it was the copper ingots that ended up playing a key role in preserving the wreck.
“Marine organisms may like wood, leather book covers, peach seeds, burlap sack and leather shoes, but copper really turns them off. then, ”Noli said. “All of this adds up to an extremely unusual situation, which has led to an excellent preservation of a site which is in any case unique.”
How the ship sank and what it was doing off a part of the notorious coast, famous for its storms and fog, remains unknown, although Noli has his theories.
He believes that a combination of too heavy cargoes and bad weather caused the captain to decide to disembark the ship by throwing down his bow anchors and slowly beaching it. The vessel then struck a blinker in the surf area, where it tipped over in the pounding waves. All attempts to free it failed and it broke, starting with the superstructure.
“The treasure chest fell from the captain’s cabin, sinking intact to the bottom of the sea, where it was then crushed, pinned and protected by a massive piece of the side of the ship that broke free from the hull in disintegrating, ”Noli theorized.
As for what he was doing offshore, he hopes the Portuguese records can shed some light on the matter.
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So who gets the gold?
“The Namibian government – every coin,” he said. “This is the normal procedure when a vessel is found on a beach. The only exception is when it is a government ship – the country under whose flag the ship was sailing gets it and all of its contents. And in this case, the ship was owned by the King of Portugal, making it a state ship – with the ship and all of its contents belonging to Portugal. The Portuguese government, however, very generously waived this right, allowing Namibia to retain the lot. “