Azores’ Underwater Cultural Heritage consists of a network of 30 public dive sites centred on a range of shipwrecks dating between the 15th and 20th centuries. These sites are representative of the overall underwater heritage of Azores, which is made up of more than 1000 documented shipwrecks, including about 100 identified underwater archaeological sites.
The Azores archipelago was of strategic importance for transatlantic voyages. The 30 shipwrecks in the application are connected to different aspects of European history and trade from the 16th to 20th centuries:
- the Silver Route to South America
- the transatlantic slave trade
- military conflicts such as the American War of Independence and both World Wars
- emigration ships from Europe to America
exploration expeditions such as the famous Beagle voyage on which Charles Darwin travelled around South America. Azores’ Underwater Cultural Heritage as represented through the sample of these 30 shipwrecks bears witness to the role of the Azores in European history as “the world’s bottleneck” for transcontinental sailing over many centuries. The Azores’ shipwrecks provide material evidence of the expansion of Europeans across oceans and the early starting points to globalisation in terms of trade, military actions, migration, etc. The shipwrecks are presented as time capsules of European history, symbolic of different times and different territories. The European dimension, the cross-border nature, and the role and place in European history are well articulated in the site’s narrative.