Investigating allegations of removing artifacts from the Armada

Authorities in Northern Ireland are investigating a report on the alleged removal of possible artifacts from the wreck of a protected Spanish warship.

The battleship La Girona of the Spanish fleet sank near Portballintrae in 1588.

The Department of Local Communities said it received a report of diving activity within the restricted area around the wreck and the removal of potential artifacts during the July holiday period.

Access to the site is restricted and anyone diving into the area without a license can be sued.

La Girona sank near Portballintrae in 1588

The department says recent good weather has led to an increase in recreational diving and an increase in the numbers of people visiting the historic shipwrecks.

However, it reminded divers not to disturb the La Girona and HMS Drake sites.

La Girona is one of 340 known ship and plane wrecks in Northern Ireland’s waters, but one of only two to have special levels of protection.

The other is the site of the World War I cruiser HMS Drake, which was torpedoed by a German boat in 1917 and sank in Rathlin Bay.

Diver at the HMS Drake wreck site

Diving into HMS Drake does not require any permissions, but the Department of Communities said removing artifacts without proper approval could be a crime and people could face prosecution.

A patrol ship will now conduct regular inspections of both locations during the remainder of the summer months.

Those who dive are urged to do so on a «look but don’t touch» basis and people should report any dives observed around the wreck of the Spanish Fleet to the police.

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