Electronic surveys in the search for the English East Indiaman Royal Captain in 1985 revealed low-level magnetic anomalies on the north side of the Royal Captain Shoal. Subsequent undersea investigations by the National Museum of the Philippines and World Wide First led by Franck Goddio revealed shipwreck material remains dated to the 16th and 17th centuries CE and apparently not related to the Royal Captain that sank on December 16 – 17, 1773.
The site lies in a channel 4 – 5 meters deep on top of the Royal Captain Shoal, which is technically a coral atoll, not a shoal. The shallowness of the site meant a very dynamic water environment thus no shipwreck remains were found and the artifacts were found widely scattered and embedded into the corals. The archaeological inventory included Chinese blue and white and monochrome porcelains, stoneware jars, earthenware, glass beads, bronze gongs, iron ingots and some bone fragments that were found inside a stoneware jar.
The Chinese porcelains comprised plates, saucers, bowls, cups, boxes, bottles, and jarlets with different decorative motifs (floral, mythical animal [phoenix and dragon], humans, landscapes and animals [birds, deer, duck]). Majority were identified as Zhangzhou wares produced by kilns in Zhangzhou region of the Fujian Province. The colored glass beads were examined and classified as of the wound (coiled) type and fall into three distinct categories. All have a circular conical hole that suggests these were meant to be placed on strings and used as necklaces or bracelets. Similar types have been found in terrestrial archaeological sites in Bolinao, Pangasinan; Calatagan, Batangas; Porac, Pampanga, and in Sta. Ana, Manila that were dated from the 14th to the 15th centuries CE.
The investigators believed the vessel was engaged in Southeast Asian intra-regional trade and on its way from China to Borneo when it struck the atoll during the northeast monsoon.