Credits: Marco Medeiros | 2023
Of the 741 km2 area of Madeira Island, 2/3 are classified as nature reserves and a number of protected areas home to the Laurissilva Forest, an asset World Heritage Site awarded by UNESCO with the distinction of “Biosphere Reserve”, and some of the first marine protected areas and nature reserves of Portugal. Thanks to the work of CEAM (ecoRoute partner), several records of UW Archaeological Cultural Patrimonial (shipwrecks and structures) have been identified and documented, some of them located in these nature reserves.
Funchal is the main city of Madeira archipelago, characterized by its big open bay and mountainous slopes that shapes a phenomenal amphitheater . On the east side of the coast is currently protected by the Garajau Nature Reserve and on the west side the Funchal marine eco-Park. Madeira is a touristic destination, with nature & culture being the main tourism attractions. It has won awards as a tourist destination in Europe & worldwide; offering all the necessary tourism services, including 15 dive centers.UW itineraries have been developed, providing information for content and VR/AR Apps to be used in the ecoRoute KAC in Madeira for making the shipwrecks accessible to non-divers.
Madeira Island has three UW cultural routes, which are part of the “Network of Underwater Archaeological Parks of the MAC Area”. This network includes itineraries developed since 2021, including “Finding SS Newton“, located at Ponta de São Lourenço, “Discovering The Bom Rei“, at Ponta do Sol, and also “Discovering The Prompt“.They all form a central part of Madeira’s maritime culture, hence the importance of creating these itineraries, which allow shipwrecks to be valued by formalizing them as tourist attractions, while also contributing to their heritage protection. All these wrecks act as artificial reefs, known for attracting a wide variety of marine biodiversity, as well as having a great distance of underwater visibility.
The focus of ecoRoute is on the shipwreck “Prompt”, located 350 meters south of Funchal harbour (depth 32 m), inside the marine eco-Park. It sunk in 1929, carrying fresh water to the Porto Santo habitants. The wreck is very important for the history of Madeira, as it served as a cabotage ship around the island, transporting people & goods, or drinkable water (towards end of its life). Today, the ship acts as an artificial reef, known to attract a wide variety of marine biodiversity, including groupers, moray eels, etc.