An international team of researchers has discovered an intact shipwreck from the late 15th, early 16th century in the Baltic Sea. Nursed in the cold bosom of the Baltic, the ship is in exceptional condition and has a solid claim to being the best preserved Early Modern Period shipwreck to be discovered in our times.
The shipwreck was first spotted as a blip on a side-scan sonar in 2009 during a survey the Swedish Maritime Administration. The anomaly on the seafloor was noted as a likely shipwreck which is not surprising as the cold Baltic is full of them; it wasn’t pursued further at the time. Earlier this year that blip took more concrete form when a robotic camera dispatched by commercial seabed surveying firm MMT to investigate a potential undersea route for the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline captured video of a wooden ship.
In March, MMT experts, post-graduate students and maritime archaeologists from the University of Southampton, from the Maritime Archaeology Research Institute of Södertörn University, and students from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm working on Artificial Intelligence applications to improving robotics functions in dark, cold underwater conditions came together to explore the shipwreck. Using the state-of-the-art ROV Surveyor Interceptor, the team illuminated the wreck and took thousands of high-resolution photographs. Those were then stitched together with photogrammetric technology to create an extremely accurate, detailed composite of the ship from every possible angle.
From their examination of the wreck, archaeologists believe it dates to the Renaissance, making it earlier than the Henry VIII’s ill-fated flagship the Mary Rose (1545) or the Swedish warship Mars (1564). Even in the cold, woodworm-less waters of the Baltic, a ship of this age is an extremely rare discovery. The later ships were larger, stronger and there were a lot more of them getting into trouble during the Northern Seven Year’s Wars (1563-1570). It has the great archaeological advantage of not having blown up like the Mars did, or having been severely damaged in any other way.
Her hull structure is preserved from the keel to the top deck with all of her masts and some elements of the standing rigging still in place, including the bowsprit and a rudimentary decorated transom stern and other elements of the ship rarely ever seen such as the wooden capstan in place and bilge pump. Still on the main deck, an incredible and rare find, the ship’s tender boat, used to ferry crew to and from the ship and leaning against the main mast. A testament of the tension on human relationships of the time are the swivel guns, which are still in place on the gun deck.
The design of the ship is very similar to depictions of the Danish warship Gribshunden which went down off the coast of Ronneby, Sweden, in 1495. It burned down, however, so there are very scant extant remains. The name of the newly-discovered ship has not been found yet. The team has dubbed it Okänt Skepp, meaning “unknown ship.”
The team plans to return to the shit to explore it further and retrieve one of the wooden planks for dating. Dendrochronology (tree ring analysis) can date wood with extraordinary precision, so if all goes well, a single timber could tell us the date of the wood within a year of its tree having been felled. That would
Here is footage of the shipwreck being scanned by the ROV, followed by a 360 video of the photogrammetry model. In conclusion, this ship is awesome.