A coral-covered shipwreck found off the coast of Mexico crashed on the ‘Nightmare Reef’ 200 years ago
Coral-covered shipwreck discovered off the coast of Mexico reached its fate after it crashed into the ‘Nightmare Reef’ over 200 years ago
- A fisherman saw the wreckage in the 1990s, but experts have investigated the remains in the past two months
- The organic material has broken down, but metal parts, iron blocks, the anchor and a cannon are still intact
- The team believes the ship saw the reef coming its way and tried to stop while the anchor was deployed
A fisherman discovered a coral-covered shipwreck off the coast of Mexico that has been hidden beneath the surface for more than 200 years.
Named after Manuel Polanco, the man who discovered it, the wreck is located in a watery grave just 34 kilometers from Majahual on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.
Archaeologists dated the wooden remains to the 18th or 19th centuries and although it has been torn down, metal parts, iron blocks, the anchor and an eight-meter-high cannon are still intact.
The team believes the ship sank after hitting the Chinchorro Bank, which was known for centuries as ‘Nightmare reef’ or ‘Sleep-robbing reef’ because of the dangers it posed to sailors.
Archaeologists have dated the wooden remains to the 18th or 19th centuries and although it has been torn down, metal parts, iron blocks, the anchor and an eight-meter gun (photo) are still intact
Researchers from the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) found the shipwreck after getting a tip from Polanco who saw it while diving in the waters.
The fishermen are the ones who know Chinchorro best because they navigate it daily to make a living, dive the Caribbean waters to find fish, lobsters or shellfish, which they sell in Mahahual or Xcalak, and often find submerged archaeological contexts, ‘INAH shared in a press release.
Manuel Polanco is an example of this because although he has now stopped diving, in the 1960s and 70s he found the remains of several shipwrecks, including two of the most iconic in Banco Chinchorro: ’40 Cañones’ and ‘The Angel’ . “
Polanco warned archaeologists about the wreck in the 1990s, but experts have only made the first dives to inspect it in the past two months.
The team believes that the ship sank after hitting Chinchorro Bank, which was known for centuries as ‘Nightmare Reef’ or ‘Sleep-Robbing Reef’ because of the dangers it posed to sailors
Since the anchor (pictured) was ‘active’, Márquez believes the crew saw the reef further ahead and hoped to slow the boat down before crashing. However, the anchor could not stop the ship and collided with the ‘Nightmare reef’.
Unfortunately, Polanco is now in his golden years and was unable to accompany the investigators to inspect the wooden remains.
When the team dived into the depths where the ship lay, they discovered that the organic matter had been tarnished over the centuries.
Laura Carrillo Márquez, SAS researcher and head of the Banco Chinchorro project, said, “It is right on the reef barrier where the sea current is strong.”
“Only the solid elements are left in the reef.”
She noted that there were only the cast iron blocks that were used as ballast, a few pipes, a cannon about five feet long and an anchor.
The team named the wreck ‘Manuel Polanco’ after the fisherman who first found it and they think it was a British ship, but they need to do more research to find out its origin
Since the anchor was ‘active’, Márquez believes the crew saw the reef further ahead and hoped to slow the boat down before crashing.
However, the anchor could not stop the ship and collided with the ‘Nightmare reef’.
While some of the remains seem to point to a British affiliation, the INAH investigator clarifies that this hypothesis has yet to be confirmed or rejected through analyzes that will be carefully conducted taking into account the site’s natural environment, explained Márquez out.