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March 17, 2016

Like Sinbad before him, Vasco da Gama once sailed the turquoise waters off of Oman as part of Europe's Golden Age of Exploration, which lead to the discovery of the Americas by Europeans and established passages to India. Now divers believe they have found the wreckage of one of da Gama’s ships, which has sat on the bottom of the Arabian Sea since 1503.

The country's Ministry of Heritage and Culture announced that the shipwreck is believed to be that of the Esmeralda, part of da Gama’s fleet during his second voyage to India.

According to National Geographic, whose National Geographic Society Expeditions Council, helped fund the recovery of the ship, the wreck was initially discovered in 1998, after a hunt was kicked off to mark the 500th anniversary of da Gama's discovery of the passage to India. The excavation began in 2013 thanks to a partnership between the Oman Ministry of Heritage and Culture and a shipwreck recovery company.

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While the shipwreck was undoubtedly old, proving its illustrious lineage involved some maritime detective work. Historical records show that in 1503, da Gama had left a squadron of ships near the island of Al Hallaniyah, off the coast of what is now southern Oman. A storm ripped through the region and the Esmeralda sank, taking its crew to the bottom of the sea.

To prove that the wreck was the Esmeralda, investigators point to salvaged evidence like stone cannonballs and lead shot from the correct era, 12 gold Portuguese cruzado coins from the late 1400s, and a bell marked with an M and the numbers 498, or 1498, when da Gama most likely left Portugal.

Now back on dry land, the salvaged artifacts will ultimately be put on display in Oman's National Museum. Add it to the list of reasons that make the country an incredible place to visit

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