A GROUP, Project San Marcus 2014 has been approved a dive, detection and survey licence to explore the San Marcus, which was shipwrecked off Mutton Island in west Clare, during the arrival of the Spanish Armada to Ireland in 1588. The statutory approval was sanctioned on Wednesday by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. They oversee the National Monuments Act, which caters for building or vessels over 100 years old.
Project San Marcus 2014 will work with INFORMAR in Galway on the project.
The Integrated Mapping For the Sustainable Development of Ireland’s Marine Resource (INFOMAR) programme is a joint venture between the Geological Survey of Ireland and the Marine Institute.
John Tracy, from Spanish Point, who is a PHD student at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, said that this weeks issuing of the licence is very significant.
“The licencing is the critical thing. Over the past two years I’ve been working with a couple with of government agencies investigating the possibility of re-evaluating the sinking of San Marcus at the Mutton Island site, which has been contentious historically over the last 20 years. Since then we’ve come together with the Marine Institute and specifically INFOMAR, looking into the feasibility of getting that survey done,” he said.
“San Marcus was one of the key vessels involved in the Armada. It will be essentially be West Clare’s Titantic,” John Tracy added.
The Spanish Point based group is hoping to start early reconnaissance dive operations around the end of April.
“From there we’ll be taking it on to a sonar survey of the area that will be carried out by INFORMAR. Then we’ll start diving all the relevant sites that will get shown up in the scientific telemetries. We’ve essentially put this together with zero funding. Myself, the Old Kilfarboy Society, Donal De Barra, and Mick O’Rourke, who runs the Irish shipwreck database, are amongst those working on it along with a group of extended academics. There were a number of quasi official attempts to find the wreck in the early 1980s. They were like blind dives. They weren’t using any type of detection equipment or proper surveying equipment. We’re one of the first projects like this that approached it from a scientific standpoint, incorporating the historical and archaeological record. It’s very, very exciting,” John Tracy stated.