Cultural and Historical Significance of Caballo Blanco Reef

Cultural and Historical Significance of Caballo Blanco Reef

Caballo Blanco Reef. Caballo Blanco, located on the southeast side of Saona Island, is approximately a half-mile long and contains an eclectic array of New World artifacts. The reef is comprised of two New World archaeological sites: The Bombard Anchor Site, exhibits sixteenth century articles, while the Cannon Anchor Site, is home to artifacts from the eighteenth century era.

These articles span the Age of Discovery, a time of Spanish exploration of the New World. From the onset of the Spanish invasion of the Caribbean until 1529 the port of Santa Domingo, Hispaniola was a base and administration center for the entire Indies. Mona Passage situated between southeast Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico was a major traveling route during this time period. In the Bombard Anchor Site rests two sixteenth century bombards: an early form of cannon that fired stone balls, two breechblocks: the loading mechanisms for the bombards, and two conveniently stacked sixteenth century style anchors. Anchor proportions signify what time period from which it came. According to Charles Beeker, an anchor' angle between the arms and the shank are very important for time period reference. The angle degree for most anchors before 1550 is 45 degrees, while anchors dating after 1550 average a 53 degree angle, with a variable range from 40 to 70 degrees. The two anchors from the Bombard Anchor Site have angles approximately 69 degrees.

Bombard 1 and Bombard 2 lie adjacent to each other heading at twenty and fifty degree angles. The surrounding marine environment has physically altered the artifacts, creating a flourishing marine habitat. The bombards are highly oxidized as coral entirely conceals Bombard 1 and almost as much on Bombard 2. From hundreds of years of close habitat, Breech Block 1 is encrusted to Bombard 2. While the encrustation does cover most of the breech blocks, the rings and bore of the breech blocks are still visible.

The Cannon Anchor Wreck Site contains a total of ten 18th century cannons, a wide distribution of ballast stones, and one large 18th century anchor. All the cannons are approximately 8 feet long and separated in two assemblages that lie 75 feet apart. Assemblage 1 encompasses Cannons 1 through 4 in 8 to 10 feet of water. The terrain bottom is uneven with coral heads, and there are various pockets with ballast stones. Southeast of this assembly is Assemblage 2. The landscape gradually slopes down to at least sixteen feet and the ballast deposits increase. Cannons 5 through 10 are randomly distributed west to east for approximately forty feet. A large anchor that measures 16 feet long from the intact crown to ring lies 18 feet directly east of Cannon 10. A significant brain coral is adjacent to the anchor's right side while orange encrusting sponge envelops the crown and lesser starlet coral resides on the shank. The anchor's angle is indicative of the early 18th century style.

The evidence indicates Caballo Blanco contains two distinct shipwrecks from historically important eras within the 800 foot site. While neither of the wrecks is intact, definite artifacts from the 16th to 18th centuries exist confirming the cultural significance of Caballo Blanco. Caballo Blanco is a very important site.

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Underwater Science Program
Last updated 24 April 2001
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