Dutch media reported, wrecks and remains of ships which may have been part of a Spanish fleet were recently discovered. The wrecks were discovered near Hoorn, in the Markermeer. This artificial lake was once part of the Dutch Zuiderzee, which in turn was connected to the North sea.
The wrecks discovered in the Zuiderzee, now Markermeer, are presumed to be Spanish for a reason. In 1573, a Spanish Armada was defeated near Hoorn. In this “Slag van de Zuiderzee”, Dutch Sea Beggars or Water Geuzen defeated an important Spanish fleet.
This victory led to a period of great prosperity for West Friesland. Towns including Hoorn, Enkhuizen, Alkmaar and others prospered. The battle even influenced the outcome of the Dutch Republic’s Eighty Years’ War against Spain.
Summer 2021, divers will determine whether the archaeological discoveries are indeed Spanish wrecks. “The archaeological value will then be determined”, states the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands or Rijksdienst Cultureel Erfgoed.
For Hoorn and other ports around this part of the former Zuiderzee, became important ports for the Dutch East India Company‘s fleets. So if not Spanish, the discoveries may date from a later era.
The wrecks are scattered along a large area measuring 73 square kilometres. First sonar was used to locate sites. Then “potentially interesting” locations were determined. This was followed by a more detailed scan of the locations.
Volunteers from Hoorn were involved too. They have carried out archaeological research with their own ship and equipment for years. Their finds are now part of this larger project. At least ten complete shipwrecks were discovered. In nearly forty other places, scans located ship remains.
Underwater archaeologists suspect there may even be more hidden wrecks. The sonar and scan research resulted in a soil map. It reveals most of the soil consists of soft sediment, sometimes peat, as well as silt.
This means, sinking ships quickly disappeared into this soil and were then covered by new layers. This is one of the reasons the wrecks remained undetected for so long. On the other hand, the specific combination of soft sediment, silt and water ensured the wrecks remained well preserved.
Images: Rijksdiens Cultureel Erfgoed; header shows wreck 193, under 20m long, with peat soil on the left