Colonial Shipwrecks of Colombia: Exploring Sunken History in the Caribbean


National Geographic Grantee and Texas State University Research Faculty Frederick “Fritz” Hanselmann and a crack team of archaeologists from Colombia and the United States are leading an expedition to locate and document historic shipwrecks off of the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Follow along with Fritz’s updates from the field in this article by Fritz Hanselmann for National Geographic Magazine.

The Caribbean coast of Colombia is famous for being part of the Spanish trade route.  It was the call of gold and silver that led to conflict among natives, Spanish fleets, privateers, pirates, and foreign navies, leaving numerous shipwrecks along the coast and surrounding ports such as Cartagena de Indias, a crucial stop along the route.  While it is known that many shipwrecks exist, little has been done to document and study this underwater cultural heritage, leaving many areas remain unexplored.  This project will search for and document these sites using systematic electronic and diver surveys to locate potential shipwreck sites and add them to the national database of archaeological sites.  The data acquired during this project will provide some of the first insight into the underwater cultural heritage found in the waters surrounding two of Colombia’s most important Spanish colonial ports and the groups and individuals that made them successful.  The results will also inform the development of a management framework and a better understanding of the extent of the country’s cultural resources in the Caribbean.  Join me, Dr. Juan Guillermo Martin, and the rest of our team as we dive to discover and document shipwrecks in Colombia, sunken vestiges of our shared past.

Funding and support provided by a National Geographic Society-Waitt Grant, the Universidad del Norte, the Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia, the Centro de Investigaciones Oceanográficas e Hidrográficas of the Dirección General Marítima, Halcyon Dive Systems, and The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University.

For the original report go to

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