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Shipwrecks in the Gulf of Cadiz: A Catalog of Historically Documented Wrecks from the Fifteenth Through the Nineteenth Centuries

Denise Lakey
Thesis: May 1987
Chair: van Doorninck
Nautical Archaeology Program


From April 1984 through July 1985 the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, with Spain's Ministerio de Cultura, conducted an underwater archaeological survey of the Bay of Cadiz. The most significant accomplishment of the project was the gathering of historical information on more than 400 shipwrecks in the Gulf of Cadiz.

From the underwater archaeologist working on ships of the post-medieval period, a list of ships known through historical references to have wrecked in a given area is a necessary tool, like artifact catalogs and bibliographies. Yet the few shipwreck catalogs which have been published are marginally useful at best.

This thesis formulates criteria for gathering and by synthesizing shipwreck information, creates a format for presenting that information, and establishes a database of shipwrecks in the Gulf of Cadiz.

The thesis discusses the problems encountered in compiling such a catalog. The inventory includes not only the sources consulted for each wreck, but also the documents and publications those sources used, thus serving as a base for additional research.

In order to relate the historical information tot he geography of the Gulf of Cadiz, a detailed description and maps are included. The thesis also summarizes five major events which resulted in a significant number of wrecks: 1581 Diego Flores de Valdes armada; 1587 Francis Drake's preemptive strike; 1596 English attack; 1805 Battle of Trafalgar; and 1810 French siege.

The results of the field survey are summarized and related to the historical information presented in the catalog. The remains of a portion of a late 18th- or early 19th century ship were recorded and the possibility of its being the French warship Bucentaure is discussed. Other hull remains on display at the Spanish naval base at la Carraca are also briefly described.


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