Javier Vayá brings us closer to the fascinating world of submerged ships, a trip to the past. By Javier Navascués

Javier Vayá Gil is a lawyer and historian. He holds a degree in Law from the University of Valencia and is a general lawyer. Expert in History of Law. Administrative Manager. Degree in History from the University of Valencia, specializing in Modern History (XVI, XVII, XVIII). Member of CES (non-profit Cultural Foundation). Master in Law. Attendance to the Master of History of Techniques and Navigation; being very interested in symposiums and conferences on Sunken Treasures and Protection of Submerged Heritage (especially Spanish). Conference on Spanish Submerged Heritage, Sunken Treasures and their Protection (Faculty of Law) (Law of the Sea). Because of their general historian training, historians are projected as collaborators and commentators of press, radio, and TV, being able to work as journalists (as a heterodox way out of the profession). Because of their training as Jurists and Historians, they are projected towards Political Science (a career whose content is Law, History, Geography, History of Thought, History of Political Ideas, International Relations and …Sociology and Statistics (ignoring the latter two).

A “quasi-political scientist” interested in International Relations and Diplomacy (the latter training in which a good legal training is essential (80%) and Historical (20%, Modern and Contemporary History). He enjoys writing, good books and has a passion for the Sea.

Why are you fascinated by the subject of sunken ships at sea?

Since always, since my school days. This led me to read and document myself on this subject and to study History at the University, specializing in Modern History. I am also very attracted to the aspects of responsibility in the custody and protection of this rich legacy of our ancestors, and that is where my vocation as a jurist comes into play, specializing in Maritime Law.

I am interested in underwater archaeology in general and in particular, the rich Spanish submerged heritage, especially the modern age XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII centuries, especially the Golden Age, the legacy of Imperial Spain, an inalienable responsibility. A ship, a sunken ship, is a sort of time capsule, a frozen instant of an era and civilization susceptible of being investigated and studied with scientific methodology.

It is an exciting story of mystery, to reconstruct the sinking, the lifestyle of passengers and crew of a sunken ship, scattered on the seabed, shaken by storms and covered with sediment. These remains tell a fabulous story, no one decides what was taken or left behind, it is a fragment of history frozen in time.

A shipwreck is the reconstruction of a time and a way of life that passed, with a rich buried treasure and trade routes. A capsule in time waiting to be opened and tell its story. Along with this, submerged heritage is a significant element of human history and a common cultural heritage “we are what we are, because we were what we were”, diving into our History, exploring little known aspects, recovering a unique treasure of information and objects of a historical, cultural and scientific nature, which is the heritage of mankind. The sunken heritage is our submerged memory, it must be preserved and protected.

I always think of the same example, on land, imagine a castle built in the 12th century, enlarged in the 14th century, successive reforms in the 15th and 16th centuries to adapt it to the impact of artillery, used as a castle-palace in the 17th century, as a prison in the 18th century, and various uses in the 19th and 20th centuries, museum, national parador. So it has been modified and adapted to different times and uses. However, a ship is a fragment of its time (all from the same period, without additions or later modifications), which is preserved in the background.

The shipwrecks that were wrecked tell the story of those who reached port, we must remember the importance of the imperial legacy and the nautical aspects necessary to manage and control that Empire in which the sun did not set.

In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, Spain and Portugal were pioneers and leaders of exploration and discovery. Europe learned to navigate thanks to the Spanish nautical treatises that were translated, a rich past that challenges us and from which much information can be obtained from a site contrasted with the written sources.

A rich past, which is the accumulated sum of what our people learned from the nautical tradition of Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Muslims, medieval contributions. And its Atlantic and Mediterranean tradition.

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