Five hundred years ago, back when Christopher Columbus was ‘discovering’ new worlds and Leonardo Da Vinci was trying his darndest to finish the Mona Lisa, a merchant ship sank to the bottom of the Baltic Sea. It lay there for centuries, undisturbed, until 2009, when it was found during a sonar survey by the Swedish Maritime Administration.
Earlier this year, researchers using underwater robotics were finally able to capture detailed, three-dimensional images of the vessel. They’ve dated it to the late 15th and early 16th centuries, and described it as a significant archeological find for the study of early modern marine exploration.
Dr Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz, a maritime archaeologist at the University of Southampton, says the cold, salty waters of the Baltic kept the ship in near-perfect condition.
“It’s almost like it sank yesterday – masts in place and hull intact,” he says. “Still on the main deck is an incredibly rare find – the tender boat, used to ferry crew to and from the ship, leaning against the main mast. It’s a truly astonishing sight.”
Researchers are still trying to figure out the ship’s true identity. Until then, they’re calling it Okänt Skepp, Swedish for “unknown ship”.