DIVERS will next month begin searching for a galleon that perished off the coast of Clare as part of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
Only four of over 400 souls on the San Marcos survived the shipwreck at Mutton Island and these were swiftly despatched by forces loyal to Queen Elizabeth I on coming ashore.
A group has now come together to search for what remains of the vessel.
John Treacy, a PhD student at Mary Immaculate College, is from west Clare and grew up with the lore of the Spanish Armada around Miltown Malbay. Having formerly served in the Irish Navy, he is well suited to the job of co-ordinator of the San Marcos Project.
With permission from government to dive and survey the area between Mutton island and Lurga Point, the project has enlisted a number of local diving clubs, including UL and Aughinish. And Mr Treacy said the first exploration would take place on Sunday, May 11, involving up to 70 divers.
Marine historian Sean T Rickard, who grew up in Dooradoyle before moving to the United States where he joined the US Navy, is another involved in the project.
The galleon, he said, was believed to have been constructed in Lisbon and had convoyed the Spanish gold fleet, laden with South American booty, from the Azores to the Iberian peninsula before being brought into service for the Armada.
“For her day, she was a very large vessel at 24 metres. In modern terms we might laugh at that but for its period it was like an aircraft carrier,” Mr Rickard said.
While little remains after over 400 years, it is hoped that the seabed might yield some of her 33 canon or her ballast mound for study. As well as being of historical importance it is hoped the project will pay a dividend in terms of heritage tourism.
The project is supported by Mary Immaculate College, the Marine Institute, the Irish Underwater Archaeology Unit, INFOMAR, The Old Kilfarboy Society and the Burren Sub Aqua Club.