Ancient Sunken Warship, Steamboat and Lighthouse Discovered off Coast of Mexico

Divers found remnants from not one, but three archaeological features off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. A Dutch warship, a British steamboat and a lighthouse, which sounds like the beginning of an extremely nerdy joke but is really just a factual list of discoveries.

The relics lie near the small seaport town of Sisal, according to Reuters. These days, Sisal is a quiet fishing village. In the 18th and 19th centuries, however, it was a major port for all manner of vessels, according to Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History. Some of those vessels were luckier than others.

Neither the Dutch warship nor the British steamboat have been seen since they sank, in the 18th and 19th centuries, respectively. They lie at separate sites, to which local guides led experts from the institute's Sub-Directorate of Underwater Archeology.

The Dutch warship lies in the Madagascar Canyons, about 22 nautical miles (basically the same distance as a mile) northwest of Sisal. It features 12 cannons, each more than eight feet long. Based on records from the General Archive of the Indies in Seville, Spain, the ship went down in February of 1722, a season of lethal north winds, according to the Yucatan Times. The archive lists two Dutch frigates from that time that were carrying contraband merchandise (though exactly what kind of contraband wasn’t specified). One sank, while the crew was rescued and brought ashore to Sisal.

Helena Barba Meinecke, a marine archaeology expert at the institute, reported that the cannons were probably thrown overboard by the crew in an attempt to save the sinking ship. Eight additional cannons and cannonballs were found about 60 feet away—covered in nearly six inches of coral, an ideal artificial reef for local marine life.

Dutchfrigate The 18th century Dutch frigate, which was carrying contraband when it sank. Helena Barba/INAH

The second ship, just over one nautical mile from shore, is a Mississippi-style steamboat complete with a rocking machine and paddle wheels, according to the second part of the Yucatan Times report. The archaeologists dated it to between 1807 and 1870, before the era of more modern boilers. It's been newly named “Vapor Adalio" to honor the grandfather of the Sisel fisherman who guided the researchers to the site.

The lighthouse rests at a third site, just two nautical miles from Sisal. Experts dated it to the late 19th or early 20th century. It measures a little over 26 feet high and around 11 and a half feet wide and probably met its fate during a tropical storm, the Yucatan Times reported.