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Saturday, 27 May 2017

Girona gold: How a diver discovered 400-year-old treasure

It was the discovery of a lifetime, an audacious Indiana Jones-style story of daring diving that uncovered a 400-year-old long-lost haul of Spanish treasure.
When Belgian Robert Sténuit discovered pieces of eight in the murky, freezing seabed off Northern Ireland's north coast 50 years ago he knew he'd finally found it.
Gold and artefacts deposited at the resting place of one of the most important ships in the Spanish Armada - the Girona.
In 1588, the ship sank beneath the harsh Atlantic waves after striking rocks at Lacada Point near Portballintrae, County Antrim.
Along with it went all but nine of the 1,300 people on board - along with a huge cache of Spanish treasure.
Now, the anniversary of Stenuit's startling discovery of the Girona gold has been commemorated in a series of events on Northern Ireland's north coast.
A wreath-laying ceremony took place from a Navy vessel near Lacada Point, the rocky outcrop that is believed to have been struck by the Girona.
On Friday evening, a service was held at St Cuthbert's Church near Dunluce Castle, where an estimated 260 Girona sailors were buried.
The events, organised by the Causeway Coast and Glens Council, not only commemorate the lives lost in the sinking, but also the cultural and historic impact of the Armada and its legacy.
The anniversary reflects not just on the gold and artefacts recovered by Sténuit, but also the stories of the Girona, long thought lost to the waves.
The Girona set sail in May 1588. A galleass ship - part galley, part galleon - it was meant to be one of Spain's decisive weapons in the war against England.
However, by the time it sank in October 1588, the ship carried far more men than it was equipped to carry after picking up surviving crew from other shipwrecks.
The nine survivors were helped by local chief Sorley Boy McDonnell.
McDonnell was also wary of attracting overt attention from crown forces who would take an interest in the Girona and its treasure - so he told them the ship had sunk at another point on the coast.
From then, the Girona and its secrets lay dormant for 400 years - until an intrepid Belgian launched a covert mission to uncover the lost Armada ship.
Robert Sténuit was a trailblazing professional diver, who made one of the world's first prolonged deep dive, but was also a historian by trade - and he had a hunch that he knew where the Girona had sank.
Looking at 19th century maps, he noticed two markings - Spaniard Rock and Port na Spaniagh.
"When the first version of this map was made," he told a 2008 documentary, "the geographers came and asked people how is this place named and why. There was a very vivid memory of what had happened."
Source By BBC.COM


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