The Nautical Archaeology of Peniche

Principal Investigator: Jorge Russo

Advisors: Filipe Castro (Archaeology); Mariano Calado (History)


(Portuguese Version)


Fig. 1 - Aerial view of Peniche and the coast to the south (Photo: CNIG - Centro Nacional de Informação Geográfica).

Conquered from the Umayyad rulers during the 12th century the stretch of coast that extends from the old Baia da Pederneira, near the city of Alcobaça, to the small harbor of Porto Novo has a rich past with plenty of maritime activity.

Fig. 2 - Map of the region under study

The idea of gathering all the available information on this area stemmed from a casual contact between Jorge Russo and Filipe Castro, the first a passionate diver who grew up in the region, and the second an archaeologist who spent most of his youth summer holidays in Baleal. Inviting Mariano Calado, a local historian with many books written about the history of that region seemed only like the natural first step.

Fig. 3 - Aereal view of Baleal Peninsula (Photo: Filipe Castro, 1983).

The borders of the region under study are absolutely arbitrary: we simply marked a circle around the peninsula of Baleal and started marking up the harbors, bays and inlets, the registered historical shipwrecks, the local stories about wrecking activities, fisheries, whale hunting, etc.


Fig. 4 - Early 20th century view of the Peninsula of Baleal (photo: unknown author)

This project has three main objectives:

I. To gather all the available information about shipwrecks along this strech of coast;
II. To promote non-intrusive surveys on all the shipwreck sites identified along the coast down to a depth of 30 meters (100 ft.);
III. To select the best shipwreck sites for archaeological excavation.

From the historian's point of view it will be interesting to gather all the available information, both historical and anecdotal, on local maritime activities (among which there are rumors of wrecking!), traditions, types of ships and boats that sailed those waters, and research as much information as possible on the most important historical shipwrecks occurred in the area under study.

Fig. 5 - Late 19th or early 20th century picture of Praia dos Barcos, in Baleal (photo: unknown author)

Since the coastline in the part of the Portuguese coast varied drastically in the last 500 years, coastal geology will be an important part of this study.

Fig. 6 - Presumable evolution of the coastline since the 12th century (Maps: Mariano Calado)

One last objective of this study is to try to unbury the story of the 20th century salvage industry in the region, and its heroic hard-helmet divers who recovered enormous quantities of bronze and other valuable metals from both old and recent shipwrecks.


Fig. 7 - Baleal's early 19th century fortification (Photo: Filipe Castro)

    A Short History of the Region (in Portuguese)
    Wreckers in Ferrel? (in Portuguese)
    Cities, Villages and Harbors (in Portuguese)
    List of Shipwrecks (in Portuguese)



Citation Information:

Jorge Russo & Filipe Castro,
2003, The Nautical Archaeology of Baleal: Index Page, World Wide Web, URL,, Nautical Archaeology Program, Texas A&M University.