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Alan Neves, Alan Neves, Deseret News
A Midvale, Utah-based underwater exploration and recovery company, Deep Blue Marine, Inc., has discovered what it believes to be the oldest colonial shipwreck in the Caribbean.

MIDVALE — More than 475 years ago a ship overloaded with crew and treasure sank along the rocky shores of the Dominican Republic. It remained forgotten until crews from a Utah-based diving company Deep Blue Marine Inc. discovered the wreckage last summer.

"We have found a shipwreck that we can definitively date back to 1535," Deep Blue Marine CEO Wilf Blum said. "We have also found artifacts that are still in the Dominican Republic that date back to the pre-Columbian era. When you think about that, this is significant. This shipwreck is just a few years after Columbus, and it is the single oldest shipwreck ever found in the Caribbean. We think this is something noteworthy."

Deep Blue Marine Inc. has built a relationship with the government of the Dominican Republic and has secured a contract with the sub-aquatic ministry. This specific discovery has been named after the captain of the ship, Capt. William Rawson. Rawson's Wreck is one of many sites the company is currently exploring.

"We have a contract which includes, I think, about 42 miles of coastline," Rawson said. "Our contract allows us to keep 50 percent of all artifacts recovered and, right now, we have 13 wrecks that we are currently working."

The company found Rawson's Wreck by obtaining an ancient coin from a local fisherman.

"We found it was one of the oldest coins ever minted in the New World. We did some more research on where the (local fisherman) found the coin and little by little we found pieces of the shipwreck, which led us to where we are now," Rawson said.

"We have artifacts here that we can date to 1535," Blum said. "The only other fleet we know of that is older than this is the 1502, and it's never been discovered."

Among the discovery were some of the first coins ever minted in the new world, ancient mirrors, musket balls and Mayan artifacts and jewelry.

Email: mhopkins@ksl.com