The miners were searching for diamonds but found gold and other valuable artifacts instead.
On April 1, 2008, miners working for the Namdeb Diamond Corporation, a company owned by De Beers and the Namibian government, chanced upon several strange objects.
Unsure of what they have unearthed, the company called Dr. Dieter Noli, chief archaeologist of the Southern Africa Institute of Maritime Archaeological Research.
The Namibian coastline is known for storms and treacherous seas therefore, finding a shipwreck here was not entirely surprising for Dr. Noli.
“It just looked like a disturbed beach, but lying on it were bits and pieces,” said Dr. Noli when he first surveyed the area. “I thought ‘Oh, no no, this is definitely a shipwreck.”
This was, however, no ordinary vessel. In fact, archeologists believed it might be one of the most significant shipwrecks ever found although very little of the original structure was left because it was extremely battered by the sea.
In 1908, a German prospector found a diamond there. Eventually, hundreds more came to the region in search for diamonds. They even acquired 10,000 square miles of the desert, CNN reported. As the name suggests, the territory has been completely off-limits since then.
“It adds new meaning to the concept of the ship having being loaded with gold,” Dr. Noli said.
According to History Collection, The Bom Jesus was a Portuguese East Indiaman that belonged to King Jaoa III and captained by Dom Francisco de Noronha.
It was a type of vessel used to travel back and forth from Europe to Asia. Aboard it were a total of 300 people including sailors, soldiers, merchants, slaves, priests, and aristocrats.
In total, they discovered at least 5,438 artifacts of ‘cultural, scientific, and intrinsic value,’ News.com.au wrote in an article.
Based on the evidences they found at the site, Dr. Noli and his team rationalized what happened to The Bom Jesus.
“We figured out the ship came in, it hit a rock and it leaned over,” he told CNN. “The superstructure started breaking up and the chest with the coins was in the captain’s cabin, and it broke free and fell to the bottom of the sea intact… In breaking up, a very heavy part of the side of the ship fell on that chest and bent some of the coins. You can see the force by which the chest was hit, but it also protected the chest.”
Marine biologist Bruno Werz believed the copper ingots were vital to the vessel’s preservation.
“Wooden remains would normally have been eaten by organisms, but the poison would have protected part of those materials,” he said.
The mining company’s security is protecting the remains of the shipwreck. They are inside a warehouse in the diamond mine, hidden from the outside world just like the entire Sperrgebiet territory.
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