Punta Cana Shipwrecks
Indiana University is currently partnered with the Grupo Puntacana to create a regional network of Living Museums in the Sea near Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. IU researchers are currently working on an underwater shipwreck park known as the Coliseum, the former US Navy vessel Enriquillo (aka USS Stallion), and an unidentified 16th century Spanish merchant ship.
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.
Enriquillo (aka USS Stallion)
The Enriquillo was built as ATA-193 in 1944. ATA-193 was in service at the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, before being decommissioned in Orange Texas in September 1946. In July 1948, the ATA-193 was renamed the USS Stallion and remained decommissioned until 1949, when she was assigned to Hydrographic Survey in the Persian Gulf.
The USS Stallion saw service throughout the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf until 1952, when she returned to Norfolk, Virginia. The Stallion operated in the United States for the Naval Ordnance Laboratory until 1969 when the ship was decomissioned and eventually transfered to the Dominican Republic in 1970 under the Security Assistance Program. The Dominican Navy renamed the Stallion to the Enriquillo (RM-22). The ship was named after a famous Taino cacique who rebelled against the Spanish in the early 16th century. The Enriquillo was retired by the Dominican Navy in 2006 and sunk as an artificial reef, where it now sits in about 60 feet of water.