Dutch Presence in Cuban Waters

cuba-peciosYamile Luguer, Cuban archaeologist and contributor of Prensa Latina News Agency, a writes about a Dutch merchant ship that was wrecked on May 31, 1698, in the area now known as Punta del Holandés (Dutch Point), “where currents intersect each other and waves do not stop moving.”

There lie anchors and cannons, sheltered in a very natural environment. It is an old wreck, nestled in a sea dynamic, which apparently did not allow the timber to be preserved; there’s no sand at its bottom, just corals, which form a reef adorned with sea fans dancing to the beat of the waves. [. . .]

In historical documents of the time of the incident, were collected data from its cargo: sugar, wood (Palo de Campeche), cocoa and leather, and the news that it sank between Capes of Corrientes and San Antonio. It sailed from Curacao, bound for Amsterdam, led by its owner and captain William Sievers, traveling with him Hendrich Klasen, his boatswain, the pilot Jan Klinckart and a crew of 37 sailors. It is known that, at the time of the accident, were rescued a bell, 26 rosaries, cocoa, iron balls, a copper pot, clothes, 11 416 pesos in silver and 334 Castilians in gold, which were auctioned in Havana.

Several centuries later, divers from the Department of Underwater Research of the Institute of Oceanology (Academy of Sciences of Cuba) discovered some anchors, part of the ballast that provided balance to the merchant ship and some of the 20 cannons certified by documents of the time.

Working conditions on this site are difficult and risky, because of the sea dynamic and waves that are maintained throughout the year, which breaks right at the base of the cliff protecting so beautiful and dangerous space.

Years later, another daring group of archaeologists dedicated efforts to situate, measure and draw 4 anchors and 15 cannons relocated; they placed a zero point in the cluster of ballast, in order to draw a map showing the exact location of every piece.

Site conditions are difficult to access and work, because of the sharp rocks, the current, the road by a sloping cliff, the constant breaker, and the pointed sea urchins living in the rock. The strong waves tossing sharply in the stretch of the first 10 meters of displacement are added to the limited depth not exceeding three meters.

All these factors put divers and archaeologists’ lives at risk and thus make the job difficult; but once again and, as part of a research project of Dutch wrecks in Cuban waters from the collaboration between the National Council of Cultural Heritage and Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE), was organized by the Maritime Services company a team for exploration, study in situ and filming of the wreck of Punta del Holandés. The aim of the campaign was fulfilled and the team also located three cannons not registered in the map, but mentioned in the historical document, and there are already 18 of the 20 carried by the wreck ship.

An edited video fragment is shown in the temporary exhibition “Dutch presence in Cuban waters” in the Castle of the Royal Force, headquarters of the Marine Archaeological Museum of Havana, where there are artifacts collected in another Dutch shipwreck located in Bajo de Sancho Pardo (Bottom of Sancho Pardo), also in the northwestern end of Cuba.

The Cuban coasts still reserves many unexplored archaeological sites, some close in distance and depth, others well hidden in distant waters, but all of them are part of the underwater heritage of the nation.

For original article, see http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3363491&Itemid=1

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