From Film: CONICET Scientists Investigate a Historic 18th Century Shipwreck

It is a work led by Dolores Elkin, researcher of the Council and an explorer of National Geographic. It seeks to recover the history of the Spanish frigate Purísima Concepción, stranded in Tierra del Fuego in 1765.

In a time when power was demonstrated in the sea, more than 250 years ago, precisely on January 10, 1765, the Spanish merchant frigate “Purísima Concepción” departed from Cádiz, Spain. Its destination was Lima, for which the ship had to surround the continent by the south end and to raise by the Pacific. After running aground among rocks on the Atlantic coast of Tierra del Fuego, their crew, about 200, left the boat and headed for the coast. All survived and lived for almost three months with indigenous people, among precarious barracks, and with the aim of reaching Buenos Aires, they recovered part of the boat to build another ship.

This story that seems worthy of an eighteenth-century English novel is the one that Dolores Elkin, archaeologist and independent researcher of the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET) at the National Institute of Anthropology and Latin American Thought (INAPL), is trying to recover. an investigation destined to look for the rest of the shipwreck and of the camping where the almost 200 survivors of the tragedy settled down.

Motivated by a story that caught her from the beginning, Elkin reviews the shipwreck: “If one thinks that all the crew survived, that they lived peacefully with the Indians during the almost three months they stayed in Tierra del Fuego, and that they also built a new ship in which they could return to Buenos Aires, it is evident that it is not a shipwreck anymore. It’s a story of those that it’s nice to know, and the intention was to bring it to light through this investigation. ”

Along with Elkin, Martín Vázquez, archaeologist of the CONICET in the Austral Center for Scientific Research (CADIC), Francisco Zangrando, independent researcher of the CONICET in the CADIC and Ricardo Vera, support staff of the National Patagonian Center ( CENPAT), helmsman, yacht skipper and professional diver, key in the tasks of nautical logistic support and diving during the field work. Other Argentine researchers from INAPL, specialists from England and the United States, and several people who collaborated with the ground logistics support also participated in the project.

To the field work that lasted approximately 10 days is added an investigation for more than two years of historical documents, such as the trip diary of the vessel, and other sources. In reference to teamwork, Elkin expresses that: “It is fundamental because everyone contributes what they have more experience and everyone learns from everyone. There is always an enrichment. ”

“One usually thinks of shipwrecks but there can be any kind of cultural remains under water. During the fieldwork it was essentially only archeology, with the peculiarity that it was worked on land and in the water and that unusual search techniques were used in Argentine archeology, “says Elkin, specialist in underwater archeology that is the study of the human past through material remains that are submerged in any type of water.

For the submarine search a magnetometer was used, which is towed from a boat and allows to detect the presence of ferrous metals with the objective of locating the iron cannons that the Purísima Concepción had on board. This tool is linked to a high GPS precision and a software that allows to process all the magnetic information, always in a georeferenced way.

“The underwater search conducted with remote sensing equipment produced important magnetic anomalies compatible with a set of iron cannons such as those on board the Purísima Concepción. This evidence, added to a series of ceramic fragments, cannonballs and other materials scattered throughout the intertidal zone, indicates what is most likely the place where the wreck occurred, “says Elkin.

The excavations on the ground, on the other hand, revealed a set of artifacts that suggest interaction between European individuals and native peoples, in what almost certainly constitutes the place where the shipwrecked camp was established. “I remember a phrase from the travel diary that says that the Indians used to make stone arrowheads and that when the castaways arrived they began to do it with glass,” says Elkin.

Scientists Investigate a Historic 18th Century Shipwreck

After the campaign begins an interdisciplinary work with the conservation areas to stabilize the recovered archaeological materials, and chemistry, to know the composition of some of them. In the laboratory the main thing is conservation, especially with those materials that come from a marine environment since they are especially vulnerable to adaptation to the new environment. In the case of the materials of the Purísima Concepción this is real.


Source: Info News