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Finisterre Shipwreck Survey

Punta Restelos I: Heavy Metal Archaeology

Punta Restelos is one of the most interesting shipwrecks which we are currently investigating within the Finisterre Project. As we have already mentioned, this ship was also part of 1596 Padilla’s Fleet and it was discovered during previous surveying seasons by Miguel San Claudio of Archeonauta. Indeed, the archaeological surveying and mapping of Finisterre Bay started after the looting of some lead ingots and other artifacts of Punta Restelos was detected in 2007. Since then several archaeological interventions have been conducted in this underwater site.

Gun carriage wheel (Photo: Miguel San Claudio).

During these interventions, the site plan was initiated and some interesting artifacts at risk of being looted were recovered to be preserved and studied. Some of these materials were the lead ingots which are now at the Museo del Mar at Vigo, and whose marks are currently being studied. Moreover, two of the most interesting finds recovered at this site were two gun carriage wheels, one of them in an excellent condition. These wheels would be part of the campaign carriages that were probably carried on board this expeditionary ship. One of these wheels is very similar to the one found at the remains of the Trinidad Valencera, sank off the north coast of Ireland (Martin, 1988: 57-73).

Iron cannon found at Punta Restelos (Photo: Miguel San Claudio).

In addition to these wheels, two iron cannons and one bronze cannon for stone shots were also documented and mapped. The amount of metal concretions is important and its presence is due to the different types of weapons that were carried on board the ship. In fact, it has been possible to identify several  muskets, arquebuses, falconetes, and even swords.  Moreover, even a bombarda has been identified.

Bronze cannon (Photo: Raul Gonzalez).

On the contrary, the wooden remains found here are sparse. Although some planks’ remains were documented, no hull remains have been observed yet. However, one of the most interesting wooden features documented here is 4 meters long structure that was named initially the “rudder” although its real function and location within the ship’s hull is currently being determined.

Photogrammetric model of the wooden structure found at Punta Restelos (not scaled) (Photo: Jose Casaban).

As you can imagine, after the amount of metal documented in this site, the main objective of the Finisterre Project 2012 was to try to find some of the wooden remains of the hull in case these parts had been preserved since that October’s night of 1596.

Metal concretion and plank remains (Photo: Jose Casaban).

The Finisterre Project Team


Martin, C. J. M., 1988, A 16th century siege train: the battery ordnance of the 1588 Spanish Armada.International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 17.1: 57-73.



July 30th, 2012

Millstones, Jesuits and silver coins.

After a few days searching for the hull remains of Punta Restelos shipwreck, today we changed our working location to conduct some surveying and mapping the rest of another shipwreck that was located in a previous archaeological season: the Millstones wreck. We needed a break of our water pump dredge: such and effective and noisy machine! Moreover, we also carried out a brief land survey on a beach where some people told us that the waves were washing away some artifacts and remains of an important 19th century shipwreck. Finally, on the way back to port, we stopped at the point where lies the only identified shipwreck of Padilla’s fleet: the San Jeronimo or Capitana de Ivella, the flagship of the Ragusian general Pedro de Ivella, who died the night of 1596.

On the way to the site (Photo: Jose Casaban).

On the way to the Millstones wreck we stopped on a beach to check if the information provided by some fishermen and locals about artifacts being washed to the shore was certain or not. After surveying the beach we realized that, fortunately, there were only some pottery fragments, glass, and metal concretions on the shore. However, during the winter storms things can dramatically change. It is sad to realize that the remains of such an important 19th century shipwreck are disappearing while nobody does anything to protect it.

Yes, this is nautical archaeology too (Photo: Jose Casaban).

Small fragment of painted pottery and glass from the shipwreck. Fortunately nothing too “big” (Photo: Jose Casaban).

The Millstones wreck is named in this way because its principal cargo was composed of this type of stones. It is quite a mysterious wreck since there are no written references about how or when it was lost, and we are still trying to determine its date. Today we recovered a fragment of pottery that we expect it will help us to provide some information about the ship’s historical period.

Going down (Photo: Jose Casaban).


The view from the boat while waiting for the mapping dive. A lovely day indeed (Photo: Jose Casaban).

This morning we photographed and measured the remains on the wreck. Our aim was to produce a 3D and 2D site plan. However, the visibility in the area is not being great. During the last days, the main wind was the northeast that, in theory, cleans the water although it also lowers the temperature. Unfortunately, today the water was still very cloudy and VEEEEEEEERY COLD! Indeed, the water has reached its lowest temperature since we arrived to Galicia: 13 degrees Celsius (55.4 degrees Fahrenheit). In any case, the work was done although it was quite hard. It is curious, on the surface were were having a sunny and warm day. In fact, we even got some suntan (nose and ears mainly).

Triangulating in “crystal clear waters” (Photo: Jose Casaban).

The site is about 12 meters deep and before to start the mapping we had to clear it of the different algae that covered it. Once the cleaning was complete we used  the two usual mapping methods that we have already described in a previous post. We took photographs covering the site to produce a 3D model and we also triangulated the main features to provide the right spatial orientation to the model. In addition, since the visibility was not great, the same triangulation was used to create a back up site map in case the image processing is not as good as it should be.

Preliminary and partial photogrammetric 3D model of the Millstones wreck (not scaled) (Photo: Jose Casaban).

Once the mapping was complete we went to Punta do Diñeiro (Money’s Point) to check if there was any visible archaeological remains. Unfortunately, the area is almost completely filled with sand.This is a very important site where a preliminary archaeological excavation was carried out in the 80′s. The name of this shipwreck comes from the fact that the Capitana de Ivella was carrying the money to pay the troops and, after its wreckage, coins were appearing on the shore after some storms. In fact, the archaeological excavation conducted by Dr. Martin-Bueno* during the 80′s recovered a couple of thousands of this coins apart form the ring of one of the Jesuits that were on board of the vessel. This two Jesuits refused to leave the ship when it was being crashed against the rocks. The reason for that was that they did not want to leave the injured and sick members of the crew. Their bodies were recovered a few days later in a near beach.

As we expected the site was completely covered with sand. The positive side is that the site will be protected form unwelcomed visitors (Photo: Jose Casaban).

Basket used to capture octopus and lobsters. The most interesting find of the day at Punta do Diñeiro. By the way, in Galicia they cook the octopus in a delicious way (Photo: Jose Casaban).

The Finisterre Team.

* Manuel Martín Bueno et al. 1989. “Atopamo-la historia”