Tuesday, May 22, 2012
A merchant ship that sank in the 1600s, and which has been discovered off the West Cork coast, could have brought the first coconuts to Ireland. The Irish Examiner has learnt that marine archaeologists were called to an area near Schull after the remains of the vessel were found in recent days close to shore and embedded in silt in about 30ft of water. It’s understood the wreck was spotted in the seabed by workers who were laying underwater ‘outflow’ pipes for the new multimillion-euro Schull waste water treatment plant. Marine archaeologists were called in and a diving exclusion zone had been put in place to protect it from looters. Work has since been postponed on the underwater pipe-laying to allow archaeologists to fully explore what is described by sources as "a significant find".It’s believed the merchant ship was returning from the Caribbean, because remains of coconuts have been found in her wreckage. Because coconuts were considered very exotic at the time they would have been a valuable commodity. The vessel may have pulled into Schull to trade and get supplies and may have sank after bad weather forced it onto rocks, which will become clearer when archaeologists complete their work. It is possible the ship sank around the same time as the sack of Baltimore by Algerian pirates and Ottoman Turks. They captured hundreds of locals and took them as slaves. Only two ever returned. Local sources say that some pottery has also been retrieved from the wreck. They also indicate that diving operations are likely to continue in the area for at least a couple of weeks.