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Journey to the Shipwrecks of the Costa da Morte

The Cantabrian coast has historically been one of the most important seaways of the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe. Numerous shipwrecks of different nationalities have ended up at the bottom of the sea at different times in history, due to storms, battles and misfortune. Galleons, merchant ships, battleships, fishing boats, schooners, steamers, passenger boats, a myriad of vessel types rest at the bottom of these waters, as many as unfortunate circumstances that led to each of these tragedies. The route we propose is just over an hour and a half’s drive from the airport of A Coruña, the shortest way being along the AG-55 and AC-552 main roads.

This journey reveals several wrecks sunk in the course of history in the waters of the Costa da Morte, between Finisterre and Porto do Son. It is a fascinating way to discover this underwater heritage, which is possibly the richest you can find anywhere in the world.

The Routes

There are two land routes running along the coast for enthusiasts searching for wreck sites. Both are ideal for the whole family. The first one lies in the north and is dedicated to galleons, such as those of the Flota de Padilla (Padilla’s  fleet) which sunk in the waters off Finisterre in the 16th century. The second route is centred on the stories of battleships that lie at the bottom of the Costa da Morte. Both itineraries are signposted with QR codes and fitted with NFC transmitters. They give detailed information of each shipwreck and help you get acquainted with the territory, provided you use a mobile device with an internet connection.

For those who are into scuba diving, shipwrecks of the 18th century can be explored first-hand by venturing into the depths of these Atlantic waters. You may also find the occasional steamer from the early 20th century. To embark on this adventure, look no further than the Buceo Finisterre and Mergullo Compostela diving centres, which both organise recreational dives led by qualified instructors. Diving in this part of the ocean is a real pleasure. In addition to discovering the history hidden in its depths, you will be mesmerised by the astounding biodiversity.

Flotsam – The Remains of Shipwrecks

From Capitana de la Saane, wrecked in 1543, to the frigate Ariete, which ran aground in 1966, the remains of wrecked ships can be visited at a dozen sites on land. The experience brings home an awareness of the wealth and heritage concealed along the Galician coast, after centuries of lying in the middle of major seaways.

Flotsam is the name given to the remains of a vessel that has been totally or partially wrecked. Here is a selection of the most renowned shipwrecks scattered along this coast:

1. Capitana de la Saane (wrecked on 25 July 1543). This French battleship is located in the proximity of Monte Louro, Ría de Muros. It belonged to the fleet of Alabardes, commanded by General De Saane. This was the flagship of the fleet. Its cargo consisted of munitions and possibly a stash of booty from ports plundered by the fleet (Laxe, Finisterre and Corcubión). The French general, Jean de Clamorgan, nobleman of La Saane, asked the inhabitants of Villa de Muros for a ransom of 12,000 ducats. It was then, on the feast of St James and in broad daylight, that the Spanish fleet led by Álvaro de Bazán the Elder reached the inlet. The Spanish sailor aimed the prow of his vessel at the French flagship, which sunk with all its crew and plunder, which is said to include a silver reliquary with St William’s arm inside.

2. Santa María La Anunciada (sunk on 28 October 1596). This sailing ship is located in Punta Restelos, Finisterre. It was wrecked in a storm that resulted in the loss of 243 lives. This vessel belonged to the Armada del Océano, commanded by Martín de Padilla Manrique. It was sailing from Portugal to Ferrol and was part of a fleet of another 100 ships. On board was a whole expeditionary force, in addition to weaponry and munitions.

3. Bayonnaise (sunk on 28 November 1803). A corvette with a copper-plated wooden hull, located on the beach of Langosteira, Finisterre.  It was built in 1794 in Bayonne with twenty-four 8-pound cannons on board, in addition to four ship-mounted cannons and two 32-pound carronades. The ship covered the route from Havana to Ferrol while being chased by the English vessel, HMS Ardent, with 64 cannons on board. The Bayonnaise was run aground by its own crew, who abandoned it after setting fire to it. The ship blew up at midnight.

These cultural itineraries are organised by Galician Seas Finisterre Shipwrecks, a project dedicated to promoting the underwater heritage of north-western Spain. Want to discover this exciting maritime history? Check out our flights to A Coruña here.

Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

Images by Galician Seas Finisterre Shipwrecks, Amy Nelson, K. Kendall , Archeonauta SL

 

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