Azores Underwater Cultural Heritage

The EHL Site

The Site is made up of thirty visitable underwater locations, made up of shipwrecks and other archaeological sites, with anchors, artillery pieces and other remains of a shared naval European tradition that spans over five centuries.

The Azores Regional Government has created a Route between all those sites, constantly being updated. On land, the Dive Centres offer the chance to those who have diving certifications to visit these sites and learn first-hand their history, while museums and knowledge awareness centres provide detailed accounts of the most important archaeological and historical episodes related to the stories of the ships which sailed the Atlantic and stopped on the archipelago.

The creation of this shared Site by the Azores Regional Government was first proposed as a cultural tourism opportunity, whilst also focusing efforts on providing awareness to the important of preserving this heritage in a sustainable way.

Over the last seven years, the local authorities have worked towards providing new strategies for the protection of this heritage, as well as creating new ways to make it more accessible to those who do not possess diving certification, with activities on land and with the usage of new digital tools, soon to be available to the public.

European dimension

The Azores archipelago is roughly located between the European and the American continent, positioned in proximity with the sea routes that also connect with the African continent and beyond, to Asia. It was first populated during the advent of the historic period which came to be known as the Discoveries, during the fifteenth century, when the first European powers began to explore the New World, as well as searching for new commercial routes to the Far East.

As such, the Azores quickly became a sort of universal waystation for all the ships that sailed the Atlantic for the next five centuries, creating a multicultural reality which can be considered as the primordial basis for a shared European heritage as we now consider it. It was there that the great commercial vessels of the fifteenth and sixteenth century stopped for a layover; the majestic warships of the seventeenth and eighteenth century came for supplies before crossing the seas, defending their all-important trading paths; the great steamships of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries docked to transport new waves of immigration and commerce between the continents.

The Azores Underwater Cultural Heritage embody this legacy, as it incorporates shipwrecks, and other archaeological remains that carry with them these stories and create time capsules of those bygone eras, retelling them in modern times and transporting all who visit the sites to a shared European reality of joint values, principles, and tradition.

The organization

The Azores Regional Directory of Cultural Affairs is a bureau of the Azores Regional Government dedicated to overseeing all affairs related to heritage issues, as well as artistic development of the Portuguese archipelago.

Since the year 2000, all issues related to archaeological heritage have been autonomously managed by this regional governmental department and with was since then that five underwater archaeological parks have been created, as well as several protected areas, and the Underwater Archaeological Route, made up of the thirty visitable sites that have been awarded the joint European Heritage Label.

Located in the city of Angra do Heroísmo, on Terceira Island, on the Azores, the Regional Directory of Cultural Affairs continues to manage these and many other issues, with the main mission of protecting, promoting and potentialize the Region’s shared cultural heritage that binds the multicultural identity of the Atlantic Ocean.