Monte Cristi Pipe Wreck is an archeological site situated off the north coast of Hispaniola in the Dominican Republic, near the border of Haiti in the Caribbean. It was initially a shipwreck, submerged under the sea. On an ocean bed, the site is one of the hundreds of historic shipwrecks between Monte Cristi And Puerto Plata. The archeological proof of the site suggests that the ship was that of a merchant trader and that the ship sinks in the latter half of the 17th century. Evidence shows that the people who settled in Hispaniola and Jamaica were adventurous men who seek the life of buccaneers, who were sort of free sailors particularly around the Caribbean sea. Previously, the islands bloomed through piracy. The geological and historical information indicates that the ship was headed towards America, most probably the Upper Hudson River valley. The depth of the wreck is 4.4 m which is 14ft with a sprawl of seagrass surrounding the wreck with a height as tall as 80 m. (Monte Cristi Pipe Wreck Report, n.d.)

The site is known as a pipe wreck because the wreck contains a huge number of smoking pipes as cargo. The smoking pipes had the shape of a long pipe that people used to smoke tobacco that was shaped like a cane, and it was called Tobago. The wreck is divided into 5 large masses, which are layered with calcium carbonate. Three of the masses are combinations of copper-alloy and iron and two appear to be solid slabs of iron. The calcium carbonate furnishes a good amount of material for the reef ecosystem. 

An overview of the Monte Cristi Pipe Wreck - Sheet1
The Monte Cristi Pipe Wreck_©Smoking Pipes

When researchers and archeologists arrived at the Monte Cristi pipe wreck, the major concern was the whether there was sufficient data left to be interpreted. Upon the initial arrival and search, the portion discovered consisted of ballast stones, concreted iron cooking cauldron fragments, and ceramic shreds. But the item found of the ample amount were the smoking pipes. An estimation of 50,00,000 pieces. A small number of iron artifacts were also found in the starboard hull while trying to enter Monte Cristi bay, outlying a coral reef 60 m northwest of the site. A total of 262 new fragments were excavated from a 2001 research area. About the ceramic findings, there were mainly three categories. Rhenish stoneware from Germany and two varieties of glazed earthenware that probably originated from Holland. Of all the smoking pipes that were found, 94% of them had bulbous bowls, and the remaining 6% were the funnel elbow angled variety which was quite popular in the European trade items for Native Americans of the Upper Hudson River valley. Along with the ceramic findings, other discoveries from the ship compare well with the archeological findings and collections in the display from New York and the Dutch-American settlement at Fort Orange. The findings show the discovery of the origin and the destination of the ship. Evidence also suggests that the aim of this Dutch ship was to search for salt, leather, and tobacco which were quite abundant in the 17th century. The origins of the vessel and cargo place the wreck in the middle of a volatile competition between the English and Dutch for maritime, mercantile, and military supremacy in both Europe and America. (Monte Cristi Pipe Wreck (+1665), n.d.)

An overview of the Monte Cristi Pipe Wreck - Sheet2
Excavation of Smoking Pipes_©Institute of Nautical Archeology

Talking about the condition of the ship, a considerable amount of the ship’s hull has survived. The analysis of timber present in the structure of the ship suggests that the ship was built after 1642 in England. It was also found that the hull was coated with cow hair and tar and enveloped with boards for outer protection. This was a usual measure in the 17th century to protect the hulls of the ship from natural degradation like bacteria and shipworm. Coming on the sailors on board, it was found that they relished a diet consisting of pork, beef, salted fish, and couch. As evidenced by faunal remains and dredge screens, there were frequent sightings of olive pits and fruit stones. It was also found that occasionally the people as evidenced by animal bones that contain rat incisor marks. (Monte Cristi Pipe Wreck (+1665), n.d.) 

The wreck site has been heavily disturbed over the decades but the site had sufficient data to effectively reconstruct the vessel construction, voyages, lading, and demise. Rigorous research of the wreck proved that not all disturbed archeological sites should be seen as something to be overlooked. There have been a lot of measures taken to protect the remaining left to be done on the wreck. The timber of the ship lies buried beneath a protective layer of tarpaulins, sandbags, and a meter-thick cover of sand and coral rubble. The shipwreck is protected under the Institute of Nautical Archeology and the team has invested significantly in raising awareness of the wreck among local officials and population, fishing boat operators, and tourist guides. The Monte Cristi Pipe Wreck may be one of the handfuls of maritime cultural resources that help to shed light on the fascinating era of history. (Monte Cristi Shipwreck Excavation, n.d.)

Ceramic findings in the excavation_© Institute of Nautical Archeology


Monte Cristi Pipe Wreck (+1665). (n.d.). MaSS. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from

Monte Cristi Pipe Wreck Report. (n.d.). Institute of Nautical Archaeology. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from

Monte Cristi Shipwreck Excavation. (n.d.). Institute of Nautical Archaeology. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from


Nishal is a budding architect, exploring and persisting every interest she has acquainted with. She has embraced the profession of architecture as more of a way of life, as how she explores places and meets people. Nishal has a knack for music, photography, and feel-good movies, she hopes to find the sweet balance between her hobbies and her interest which is now her profession.