Connie Kelleher, an archaeologist attached to the underwater unit at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, is to carry out an independent investigation into “the very exciting” wreck which lies at the entrance to Castlehaven harbour.
The ship, the Santa Ana Maria, which was built in 1628, was running silver from the New World to Spain when she was captured by a Dutch privateer, Piet Hayn.
He planned to sail her back to Holland and strip her of most of her cargo and some of her guns. But British privateers subsequently captured her and were on their way to Bristol when the ship caught fire and sank off the West Cork coast.
The remains of the galleon were discovered in the 1970s and it is now a protected site. However, while some of its guns were recovered a number still remain on the seabed — and there’s a possibility that a number of other precious artifacts will be identified. It is unclear whether any the silver bullion remains on the wreck.
“There are quite a few iron canons down there. They are usually better off left in situ but it will be up to the National Museum of Ireland to decide,” said Mr Kelleher. “It is quite an important ship because it is the only Spanish galleon (in Irish waters) which can be investigated from that era.”