In Photos: Historic Shipwreck from Vasco da Gama's Fleet

500-Year-Old Shipwreck

Vasco da Gama

(Image credit: Public Domain)

Marine archaeologists say they’ve located the wreck of the nau Esmeralda, a Portuguese ship that was part of explorer Vasco da Gama's second voyage to India (the explorer is pictured here). More than 500 years ago, the ship was destroyed in a storm, killing the crew and the commander, da Gama's uncle, Vicente Sodré.

Doomed Ship

Doomed Ship

(Image credit: Esmeralda Shipwreck project)

Vasco da Gama's uncle, Vicente Sodré, ignored advice from the locals about impending strong winds. His ship, which was part of five-vessel squadron, became unmoored and sank in a bay, on an island off the coast of present-day Oman.

The Search Begins

Oman Shipwreck

(Image credit: Esmeralda Shipwreck project)

In 1998, shipwreck hunter David Mearns went looking for the wreck around Ghubbat ar Rahib bay, off the northeastern coast of Al Hallaniyah island in Oman (shown here), and found several cannonballs on the seabed.

Underwater Excavations

Esmeralda Shipwreck Excavations

(Image credit: Esmeralda Shipwreck project)

More than a decade after Mearns’ first exploration, more thorough archaeological investigations began at the underwater site in 2013.

Sunken Treasures Found

Esmeralda Shipwreck Sunken Treasures

(Image credit: Esmeralda Shipwreck project)

The team turned up hundreds of artifacts that hint that they’ve found the lost Portuguese ship. Shown here is a copper alloy disk, marked with the Portuguese royal coat of arms.

Cannonballs from the Seabed

Esmeralda Shipwreck Cannonballs

(Image credit: Esmeralda Shipwreck project)

Geological analyses of stone shot found at the shipwreck showed that many were made of limestone one would expect to find in the Lisbon region of Portugal.

A Legendary Rare Coin

Esmeralda Shipwreck Rare Coin

(Image credit: Esmeralda Shipwreck project)

This CT scan shows the índio, an extremely rare Portuguese coin that was commissioned by King Dom Manuel in 1499 for trade with India. Mearns called it a "remarkable discovery."

Bronze Bell

Esmeralda Shipwreck Bronze Bell

(Image credit: Esmeralda Shipwreck project)

Until it was raised by marine archaeologists, this ship's bell had been hidden beneath an underwater boulder for centuries.

Megan Gannon
Live Science Contributor
Megan has been writing for Live Science and since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.