Weather permitting, a major exploration of the wreck of a Spanish Armada galleon off the coast of County Clare will take place this weekend.
Up to 70 divers will take part in a search for the 790-ton, 25 metre long San Marcos, which sank with the loss of 400 lives near Seafield in September 1588.
The San Marcos Project is being led by West Clare native and PhD student at Mary Immaculate College, John Treacy. With permission from Government to dive and survey the area between Mutton island and Lurga Point, Mr Treacy said the first exploration would take place this Sunday, May 11.
Mr. Treacy said the galleon is believed to have been constructed in Lisbon and had convoyed the Spanish gold fleet from The Azores to the Iberian peninsula before being brought into service for the Armada.
The Spanish Armada was the Spanish fleet that sailed against England under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia in 1588, with the intention of overthrowing Elizabeth I of England and putting an end to her involvement in the Spanish Netherlands and in privateering in the Atlantic and Pacific.
The Armada was driven out by an English fire ship attack. In the ensuing battle, the Spanish fleet was forced to abandon its rendezvous. The Armada managed to regroup and withdraw north, with the English fleet harrying it for some distance up the east coast of England. The commander decided that the fleet should return to Spain; it sailed around Scotland and Ireland, but severe storms disrupted it. More than 24 vessels were wrecked on the western coasts of Ireland. Of the fleet’s initial 130 ships, about fifty never returned to Spain.
426 years ago in September 1588, many Spanish Armada ships were sighted off the coast of County Clare: four at Loop Head, two of which were wrecked, including the San Esteban (700 tons, 264 men) at Doonbeg, and probably the heavily damaged San Marcos (790 tons, squadron of Portugal, 409 men, 33 guns) at Spanish Point. All survivors were reportedly put to death by the sheriff of Clare, Boetius MacClancy (some, according to tradition, at Gallows Hill).
Seven ships anchored at Scattery Roads. An attempt to land was repulsed, although certain supplies were secured while repairs were undertaken. The galleon the Annunciada (703 tons, 24 guns, 275 men) was fired and scuttled off Kilrush on with the crew transferring to the Barco de Danzig, which made it safely to Spain after the squadron departed the Shannon Estuary.
For more see the San Marcos Project facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/ProjectSanMarcos2014.
Finding Armada Shipwreck in Ireland – Video by P J Ceren (CLICK HERE)