Underwater remnants of 18th, 19th-century life found off Sisal’s coast

Vapor Adalio. Photo: INAH
Vapor Adalio. Photo: INAH

Sisal, Yucatán — A local fishermen has led archaeologists to remains belonging to an 18th-century Dutch warship and a 19th-century British steamboat, as well as an old lighthouse, deep under the Gulf of Mexico.

Twelve 2.5-meter (8.2-foot) long cannons were found in an area now called Madagascar Canyons, 40 kilometers (22 nautical miles) northwest off Sisal’s coast.

Sisal today is a relatively sleepy village and beach destination, but in the 18th and 19th centuries was a much more prominent fishing port.

The cannons appear to be artillery used by Dutch warships that sailed to the West Indies in the 1700s, archaeologists said.

Experts believe the cannons – weighing more than 330 tons in total – were thrown overboard by the crew in an effort to stay afloat. Around 62 feet (19 meters) to the southeast, archaeologists found eight cannons and cannon balls, as well as ceramic fragments, covered by a half foot of coral.

The second wreck is a British steamboat found 2 kilometers (1.08 nautical miles) north of Sisal, at a site called Vapor Adalio, in honor of the grandfather of local fisherman Juan Diego Esquivel, who led archaeologists to its location.

The Mississippi-type steamboat has a machine and paddle wheels that place it between 1807 and 1870. Researchers trace its machinery to the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company of London.

Esquivel also guided archaeologists to an old lighthouse 3.7 kilometers (two nautical miles) from Sisal. Although it is sectioned, it is known to be eight meters high (26 feet) and 3.5 meters (11.4 feet) in diameter.

It was likely installed on the coast during the government of Mexican President Porfirio Diaz and was toppled in a storm.

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