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Sunken city of Port Royal

In the morning of the 7th of June 1692, Jamaica was struck by an earthquake of an estimated 7.5 magnitude (Richter magnitude scale). The ground under Port Royal, a city known for its pirates and other notorious inhabitants, liquified and a great part of the city sank into the sea and is now submerged under ±12 meters of water. Two third of the approximately 2000 buildings were destroyed and/or sunk.

UNESCO calls this site a ‘catastrophic site’ with an occupation span of only 37 years. This maritime archaeological site is very much stressed by the fact that it is on itself an important site to research and preserve. Both on a local level as well as in international history. In my opinion this locally preserves the Hispanic, pirate/privateer/smuggler and English reign and influences. Also in international context it refers to the transfer of Hispanic domination in the Caribbean to great powers as England (and The Netherlands, but not necessarily applicable to this). This site is also a time capsule of which there are not many on the world, especially with the before mentioned short occupation span.
What thrills me as a recreational scuba diver is the fact that you can descent into the waters and really swim through the streets of sunken Port Royal (probably it is not easy to get dive access as it is protected, but still). Due to the availability of historical sources and maps, you can dive down and ‘visit’ a known tavern or ‘stroll’ through High Street.


By van Someren

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