Punta Cana 16th Century Shipwreck
The 16th Century Punta Cana site is a mid-sixteenth century shipwreck located offshore of Punta Cana on the southeastern coast of the Dominican Republic. The site is located on the interface between a sand bed and a coral reef, with a maximum depth of about 23 feet. The shipwreck is in an exposed area and can be subject to rough weather. Unfortunately, the site has previously been disturbed by commercial salvage, but overall the shipwreck retains significant integrity representative of a 16th century Iberian transatlantic merchantman. Some site distribution of artifacts is attributed to the scrambling, extracting, and filtering devices involved in the wrecking process. However, the large disarticulated scatter of ballast stones and the lack of living biota on the shipwreck are clearly a result of recent modern salvage operations.
Indiana University (IU) researchers are monitoring these changes by conducting photogrammetry periodically. Under permit of the Dominican Republic Ministry of Culture, three-dimensional photogrammetric models were produced in 2016 and 2018. Several significant changes to the site were obvious, likely due to Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma. IU researchers are also invested in the conservation of artifacts from the site, like the 16th Century swivel gun from this site, owned by the Dominican Government and currently undergoing conservation on display at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. IU plans to continue conducting scientific research on this site in conjunction with the Fundación Ecologica and the Dirección General de Patrimonio Cultural Subacuático of the Dominican Republic.