Valparaiso is our Cultural
Capital and part of UNESCO's Humankind's
Heritage. But its merits go way under the sea,
where a huge underwater treasure lies un-rescued,
with no protection, part of a testimony of the
more than 500 shipwrecks registered at the bay
between the 16th and 20th centuries.
A group of Chilean and French archeologists
is now workging at the bay, and has already identified
60 shipwrecks. The project is dedicated to register
and clasify the submerged patrimony between Abrigo
and Yoland. The idea is not to alter whatever
is found, nor manipulate or extract it. This means
scientific information which should be kept reserved
for now, so to not promote looting.
To obtain pieces of wrecked ships or port installations
can be done through diving, and sold among collectors.
There is a legal gap that allows lucre, since
there is a contradiction between the law that
has to do with the sea field and that related
to monuments. All the pieces of more than fifty
years of age that are found on Chile's territorial
sea and interior waters are considered to be a
Robinson Crusoe island:
The community at the Juan Fernandez archipelago
is now promoting the construction of the first
underwater road ("Sendero de Chile")
at the area known as El Adriático in the
Robinson Crusoe island. The road would have an
average depth of 19 meters, and would promote
the zone's main tourist focus: its acuatic
fauna, with lobsters, black sea urchin, sea stars,
brecas, pampanitos, the "scorpion-fish"
and "meros", among other species.
The whole "Sendero de Chile" will conect
our country by the mountains, from Visviri in
the north to Tierra del Fuego at the south. 17
sections are already open, all through 500 kilómetros.
Some of the project's main objectives are
to connect private and public institutions, gather
the participation of local population, valuing
their systems and traditions. When ready, it will
be one of the world's main trekking routes.
Mejillones: the story of a shipwreck
Built in 1747, the San Martin ship (aka "the happy one") wrecked at the Mejillones bay during the winter of 1759, when heading to Spain by the south Pacific. More than two centuries after its accident, a group of archeologists from SEK University is working on a scientific study that may allow us to know its story.
The ship had gone through a complicated journey around the Cabo de Hornos, and it got to Concepcion in 1757 from Cadiz, Spain. Its bad constitution made it ran aground at the Mejillones bay. All passengers were safely rescued. What SEK University is now looking for is to conservate and promote this valuable heritage.
Talcahuano: underwater museum
All through 25 years, Chilean seamen could sail on the O'Briend submarine, its name taken from the first submarine (which, in 1931, crossed the Cabo de Hornos). Since the year 2001, the ship is out of service, kept under the care of the Talcahuano Army, waiting to become part of a new Museum that will open for our Republic's Bicentennial.
Retired submarinists from the Army first came with the idea of building South America's first underwater museum. The project is supported by Biobío's regional government, as part of the "Sea window" project developed by the port company Talcahuano-San Vicente. The investment will be of around $200 million (US$300,000 dollars) and it would help promote the zone's marine patrimony. Besides the submarine, it will also include the peruvian ship Huáscar, famous for its combat against the Chilean Esmeralda in Iquique.
The definite placing of the museum would be at a rocky zone around Talcahuano. The idea is to also have a special building for people to ask for information. The Biobio regional government will finance some basic mantainance work for the submarine, and the Army will help with its installation.