Coral-Covered Shipwreck Discovered On Mexican Coast

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Along the coral-coated coast of Mexico, marine archeologists have uncovered a shipwreck that met an untimely fate over 200 years ago.

Researchers from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) recently discovered the shipwreck in the coastal waters around the Banco Chinchorro in the Yucatan Peninsula after receiving a tip-off from a local fisherman. Although the project has been slightly hampered by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the team have managed to pull off a couple of dives over the past centuries in which they confirmed the presence of the ship. Next up, they hope to carry out another dive to draw plans of the site and perhaps take samples for further research ashore. 

Much of the ship's wood has degraded away, but the wreckage includes metal parts of the ship, iron ingots, its anchor, and even a 2.5-meter-long (8-foot) cannon, all of which has become encrusted into the reef over the centuries. The INAH team said the design of the ship suggests it’s an English sailboat that dates to around the late-18th or early-19th century, although little else is known about its history.

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The shipwreck was found in Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve, a diverse patch of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Systems. Thanks to its rich coral reefs and temperamental currents, the Banco Chinchorro was known to seafarers as the "sleep depriver” because it was notoriously hard to sail through. 

By no surprise, this means the area is also no stranger to a shipwreck. According to the INAH, the newly discovered wreck is the 70th registered shipwreck in the Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve. 

The shipwreck has since been named the “Manuel Polanco wreck” after the fisherman who first suspected the presence of the shipwreck in the 1990s. Now retired and elderly, Polanco is no longer able to go out to sea, but he managed to recall the location of the site to his son who led the INAH archeologists to the discovery. Remarkably, this far from Polanco’s first discovery, the local fisherman found the remains of various shipwrecks, including two well-known wrecks in the Banco Chinchorro known as "40 Cañones" and "The Angel."

In other discoveries from the shores of the Yucatan Peninsula, marine archeologists from the INAH in 2018 also discovered the remains of an 18th-century Dutch warship, a British Mississippi-style steamboat from the 19th century, and a lighthouse.

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