Imagine a time when trade was conducted almost exclusively by boat. If you wanted something, it could take months for you to get it because it had to come from a different area of the world. The world has become a smaller place with the passing of time and the development of technology. We tend to take this for granted sometimes. We can sometimes forget that even just a few hundred years ago, the world was still a very unexplored place. Think about 500 years ago now. This was a time now known as Europe’s “Golden Age Of Discovery.” This was an absolutely critical period of development in western society. Major trade routes were being discovered between newly found areas of the world. One of this time periods most famous explorers is a Portuguese man known as Vasco Da Gama. You might remember the name from history class. Da Gama was an explorer and a navigator. He was the first person to sail directly from Europe to India, from 1497 to 1499 and this linked Europe to Asia by sea for the first time. This is one of the events that is thought to have started a period of massive global imperialism for European countries. It also opened up Portugal to a long-lasting colonial empire in Asia. In 1502, Da Gama led his second armada on another journey to India. Unfortunately, the fleet encountered trouble while on the voyage and multiple ships were sunk by a storm. Scientists believe they have found one of those missing ships, and it’s discovery could rewrite history.
This is the man who led the 4th Portuguese India Armada, Vasco Da Gama. He was the first person in history to sail from Europe to India.
The wreckage of the lost ship was found on a site off the coast of Al Hallaniyah Island off the coast of Oman. It was determined that the wreckage that was found there is indeed the remains of one of the two missing ships from Gama’s 2nd armada to India. The ships name was Esmeralda.
The area was first investigated by Blue Water Recoveries a British company, assisted by the Oman Ministry Of Heritage And Culture. The debris was originally discovered in 2013, but researchers are only now certain that it is the wreckage of the Esmeralda.
Da Gama’s fleet was separated into two squadrons. 10 ships would be under Admiral Da Gama’s control and sail to India. 5 ships would be under the control of Da Gama’s vice-admiral Vincente Sodré, his maternal uncle. They set out from Lisbon in 1502, with the Esmeralda being in the second squadron. They took shelter in Senegal, and then at a port in Brazil and continued Southwest towards the Cape of Good Hope.
Vincente Sodré and his 5 ships were left behind when Da Gama sailed back to Lisbon in 1503. They were meant to guard Portuguese factories along the Southwest coast of India. Vincente ignored these orders however. He took his squadron into the Gulf of Aden between the Arabian Peninsula and Africa. There they looted and plundered Arab ships.
In may of that year, the squadron was anchored at Al Hallaniyah, one of the Khuriya Muriya Islands off what is now southern Oman. The locals warned Vincente and his men that a bad storm was brewing and they would be better off anchored someplace else. Vincente ignored this warning however, and the storm came with a fury.
Locals describe what happened to the ships. They were apparently torn from their moorings and thrown violently against the rocks. One of the ships was driven ashore and most of the crew survived. The Esmeralda suffered a worse fate however, the boat was dragged to the bottom along with the crew in deeper water.
This shipwreck has been confirmed as the Esmeralda with the help of over 2,800 artifacts that have been recovered from the excavation site.
A diver combs the excavation site of the Esmeralda in the hopes of recovering even more artifacts from this incredibly famous shipwreck.
This shipwreck is officially the oldest from Europe’s “Golden Age of Discovery.”
This is the bell from the ship. Researchers were able to read at date of 1498 on it after an MRI.
The bell was found sitting on the ocean floor where it has been for over 500 years.
This is one of the 12 Portuguese gold cruzado coins found at the wreck site.
This disc found at the site is made from a copper alloy, and features the Portuguese royal coat of arms. The armillary sphere at the bottom is the personal emblem of Don Manuel I. What’s incredible is that for as much as we know about this ship wreck, the function of this object is unknown. It is thought it may have aided in navigation however.
The ship was loaded with stone cannonballs as part of their mission was subdue hostile Muslim merchants in the region.
The finding of this shipwreck is giving people hope that the area will be furthered explored and others will be found.
This coin, called an Indio was found amongst the wreckage and other debris. It was minted in 1499, after Da Gama’s first voyage to India. This fact helped the researchers date the ship.
This coin is actually one of the most rare in the entire world and is what makes this find so valuable. There are only two of these coins that have ever been found. They are so rare they have been dubbed the “ghost coin.”
This find is really causing quite a big amount of excitement in the scientific community. It really does have the ability to change the way history is taught. I think researchers would tell you that finding things like this is what makes the job worth it. They are uncovering pieces of human history that people thought were lost forever.