It’s no secret that treasure hunting in the Dominican Republic has been going on for eons. That’s because ever since Columbus commandeered the island from the native Tainos, ships have been crisscrossing the surrounding seas and sinking near our coasts. That’s over 500 years of sunken booty hiding beneath the sand and silt of the ocean floor! That doesn’t even count the more recent (less interesting) underwater loot consisting of GoPros, tide watches, and sunglasses that are lost in the ocean by windsurfers and kiteboarders every day.
For the past week or so the waters of Cabarete have been crystal clear in the mornings – the perfect conditions for aquaholics of all types. Appropriately, the designer of our website is a self-diagnosed aquaholic whose vice of choice is Paddle Surfing. On a day of small surf and calm seas, right below the curls of a prime wave catching spot, the water was so clear that he spied 3 large cannons from atop his paddle board. As it turns out, these exceptionally clear conditions are also prime for treasure spotting (which is different than hunting because it is haphazard).
At the same time, Eric Hertsens, another Cabarete transplant, was out taking advantage of the incredible underwater visibility in his own way. Eric has been diving in the waters of the North Coast of the Dominican Republic since sometime around 1982. You might be familiar with Eric Hertsens initials from the aptly branded EH Kites, popular during the glory days of kiteboarding in Cabarete (1999-2009). More recently, the lifelong waterman spends every single morning scooting (literally) around the open oceans and profound caves of Cabarete. While “avid diver and explorer” may be a more fitting term than “treasure hunter”, in the past few weeks Eric has happened upon and documented more than probable pieces of Cabarete history.
Thanks to the power of social media, Julian (our web designer) ran across Eric’s first set of photos that included relics such as anchors and chains leading to bits and pieces of dilapidated ships. This prompted an online conversation between the friends about what each of them had seen. This discussion and Julian’s surf break markers led Eric to a trove of chains attached to huge anchors leading to some wreckage. Yet the cannons remained elusive.
Chains and Anchors and Ballasts – OH MY!
After a few days of hazy visibility, the ocean became transparent again. And just like any other day – hazy, clear, or otherwise – Eric set out on his daily underwater scooter routine. Low and behold, in an undisclosed shallow area, he stumbled across the mother-load of algae covered cannons. Eureka! Eric writes of his findings, “Puking [with excitement] again. Can hardly write this 😉 2 more anchors and 6 awesome cannons and the bed off ballast stones of a old old ship.”
No one knows anything about the pieces sighted. But it sure is interesting to think that something down there originates from the times when the Taino were still here and fighting against the Spanish usurpers of their land. The North Coast, namely La Isabela, Puerto Plata has always been on the list of places famous for shipwrecks. We are excited to see if this discovery unfolds in a way that gives Cabarete a mention on that list.
Alas, a more likely scenario is the wreckage is part of a boat graveyard from a time when Cabarete Bay was called Baye de Baume (as you can see in the map at the top of the page) and ships trying to enter the bay crashed into the reef, dropped anchor in a panic, and drifted over the reef to sink in the bay. Intriguing, just the same.
This isn’t the first time Eric has been involved with the accidental uncovering of long lost booty. Many of his underwater cave dives over the years have involved a permit and ultimately handing over any artifacts to the Dominican Government. When we asked him how he feels about not being able to keep the booty of explorations past, he replied, “What am I gonna do with it?”
It’s also worth mentioning that Julian and Eric are probably not the first to spot the cannons of Cabarete. Local fisherman, especially one in particular by the name of Domingo, have more than likely always known about these long forgotten treasures. They just aren’t typically into sharing all of their secrets, fishing spots and shipwrecks alike, with the non-locals. Understandably so.
We aren’t going to give exact locations and depths out of respect for people like Domingo and in the name of keeping awesome surf breaks secret 😉 We hope everyone enjoys this compilation of exploration photos taken directly from Eric Hertsens Facebook profile. Be sure to check back for continuing information on the clear-water-saga, because we intend to stay on top of it!
DISCLAIMER: We are not encouraging anyone to go out and hunt for historical artifacts as it is illegal without a permit. But don’t be surprised if on an abnormally clear day you spy something beneath the break that looks like it belongs in the 15th century. That being said, hunting for lost GoPros, watches, and other windurfer/kitesurfer booty amongst the reef is totally legal. And yes…we like saying booty.