|A finely preserved historic shipwreck, complete with human remains, has been found by a Swedish naval survey team in the Baltic.|
The ship was located by accident as the Belos, a diving and submarine rescue vessel, was engaged in a bottom-search training exercise in northern Baltic waters, writes Millis Keegan.
Even though the ships officers were used to strange finds, great excitement greeted the first pictures relayed back by the ROV deployed from Belos.
Standing masts, still with sails set, filled the TV screen, and the ROV descended further to establish that this was a fairy-tale ship: a beautifully preserved wooden vessel, sitting upright on a mud bottom at a depth of 107m.
The ship was armed, with four or five gunports visible on each side. On deck lay a large amount of blocks and tackle - and a number of human skulls.
Much would have floated off and away as the ship made its long descent to the seabed, but these skulls could have been those of crewmen trapped under some falling rigging as the ship went down.
When the ROV arrived at the ships bow it found an intact figurehead depicting a ponys head with big eyes, curly mane and legs folded across its stomach. Towards its bottom, the carving blended into a fish or dragons tail.
The findings were passed to Stockholms Museum of Maritime History, where research has indicated that this twin-mastedarmed carrier is a snaubrigg from the 17th or 18th centuries.
In addition, the fine figurehead - a rarity among such vessels and unlike anything the museum staff had seen before - indicated that the ship might have carried out an important role, perhaps as a government ship or mail-carrier.
Here and there, shiny glimpses can be seen on the figurehead, indicating that this and other decorations may have been been gilded.
A second visit to the wreck has yielded more filmed evidence of the ship; and the museum continues to research records to establish the identity of this beguiling, perhaps historically valuable find.