BLAME THE WEATHER!: Remarkable findings in Spanish shipwreck study

WRECK FINDINGS: Only 1.4 per cent of the ships were sunk during battles. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

RESEARCHERS with the Spanish Culture Ministry have claimed the vast majority of ships that sank during the days of the Spanish empire did so because of severe weather.

The team of three archaeologists and historians logged some 681 wrecks of ships which sank off the coast of North and South America and the Caribbean between 1492 and 1898.

A total of 91.2 per cent of those were sunk by tropical storms, hurricanes and other severe weather events, according to the results of the study.


Carlos Leon, the archaeologist who led the study, said it aimed to recover lost parts of Spain’s maritime past.

“The most famous ships have been investigated, but there’s a huge number about which we know absolutely nothing,” Leon said.

A further 4.3 per cent sank after running on reefs or due to navigation problems while 1.4 per cent sank during battles and other engagements. Pirates sunk around 0.8 per cent of the 681 wrecked ships, according to the study.

The study ran from the sinking of Christopher Columbus’ flagship the Santa Maria off what is now Haita on Christmas Day 1492.

It ended with the sinking of the British-built Pluton destroyer by a US ship off Cuba at the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898.


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