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The Esmeralda Shipwreck Project: Oman

A map showing location of the Shipwreck in Oman

Following the discovery of a site consistent with an early 16th century European wreck off the Juzor Al Hallaniyat islands in 1998 the Omani government, spearheaded by its Ministry of Heritage and Culture, agreed to initially to a reconnaissance expedition in 2013.

David Mearns, director of Blue Water Recoveries, assembled a team of maritime archaeologists, geophysicists and other scientists in 2013 to conduct a reconnaissance survey of the site, 14 years after its initial discovery. The archaeology team, led by Associate Professor Dave Parham of Bournemouth University, was supported partly by MAST which co-funded the first expedition in 2013. Following the discovery of the ship’s bell that year, confirming the presence and potential of the site and recovering 64 artefacts, a full scale excavation began in 2014 raising a further 1,894 artefacts including several diagnostic pieces such as gold coins, 19 copper alloy breech blocks and items marked with the Portuguese royal coat of arms. A second excavation season took place in November 2015 when a further 812 artefacts were recovered.

The site is located in the north eastern bay of Al Hallaniyah island, the largest of the Al Hallaniyat Island Group, Oman, on the north eastern coast of the Arabian Sea. Al Hallaniyah is the only inhabited island of the group.

It is currently considered to be a European vessel of late 15th/early 16th century and is most likely the wreck of the Portuguese Nau Esmeralda, commanded by Vicente Sodré, part of Vasco da Gama’s Indian Ocean patrol (a component of the 4th Portuguese Armada to India), wrecked in this location on 30th April, 1503. Sodré was an uncle of the Portuguese explorer.

The purpose of the project has been to better understand the Portuguese 4th Armada to the Indies and the nature of Portuguese seafaring exploration in the late 15th and early 16th century.

Full details on the Project

Archaeological expedition report

A report on the archaeological expedition has been published by the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology (IJNA)

View report

Thumbnail - Bell sunk into the sea bed
Thumbnail - A diver noting down findings under water
Thumbnail - Members of crew documenting findings on board of the boat
Thumbnail - An exterior shot of the boat floating in the sea
Thumbnail - Two divers underwater surveying the wreck

Esmeralda shipwreck logo