A group of researchers headed by maritime historian Jorge Ortiz Sotelo is continuing the search for two Spanish vessels that went missing along the coast south of Lima in 1615.

Sotelo on Monday presented a preliminary summary of his work so far, a project he began in 2010 and for which he has the support of the National Geographic Society and the Peruvian Ministry of Culture.

Ortiz consulted Peruvian and Spanish archives to identify the possible locations of the ships and established a search area where four research expeditions have been undertaken with a magnetometer, a device that measures magnetic fields, and a metal detector.

Eleven magnetic anomalies were found in the area that could be the remains of one or both ships, and although a visual inspection of the ocean floor has been conducted in the area no visible evidence of those wrecks was found, he said.

Ortiz says that underwater archaeology still has not advanced very far in Peru.

"The work that's been done up to now has been ... to recover objects or search for treasure, something that, in reality, constitutes a sort of submarine grave-robbing that destroys many times more evidence than it could contribute to a better understanding of our maritime past," he said.

The Santa Ana and the San Francisco were sunk in July 1615 in a clash with the fleet of Dutch pirate Joris van Spilbergen, a battle that resulted in 400 deaths. EFE