National Geographic says that the Encarnación, a Spanish vessel dating back to 1681 and first located four years ago, has been successfully identified. While more than a dozen Spanish shipwrecks have been located in and around the Panama region, this ship is reportedly special because a surprising amount of cargo it contains, which consists of lead seals, sword blades and other goods, is still intact. The source said these items are less "flashy" than gold and silver and thus may have escaped the notice of looters over the years.
Underwater archeologists, led by Fritz Hanselmann of Texas State University, discovered the identity of the ship while searching for the lost fleet of the English Captain Henry Morgan. The large quantity of metal objects encouraged the crew, but they quickly realized they had found a merchant vessel, not a warship. However, the Encarnación is still a valuable find, and scientists are studying the architecture of the craft as well as its contents to learn more about this era.
In a press release from the Texas State University News Service, Hanselmann referred to the environment the ship was found in and the ongoing original mission.
"The waters surrounding the mouth of the Chagres River and further along the Caribbean coast of Panama hold more than 500 years of storied maritime history," he said. "The search for Morgan's lost ships will continue and who knows what else we will discover along the way!" He also referred to the Encarnación as an "exciting and intriguing shipwreck" because of the variety of items it contains.
Sending crew down to a shipwreck site to investigate is a delicate procedure that requires researchers to take care. Commercial diving insurance plans allow contractors to recover financial losses if sensitive equipment is damaged or crew injured during an underwater expedition.