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Atocha 1622

In the summer of 1622, a fleet of ships including the Nuestra Señora de Atocha (the “Atocha”) and her sister ship, the Santa Margarita (the “Margarita”) began loading royal and private treasure in Cartagena, Portobello and Havana. The fleet did not set sail until September 4 – the height of the hurricane season. Less than 48 hours into the voyage, in the Straits of Florida, the fleet was scattered by a rapidly moving hurricane. The Atocha struck a shallow reef and sank in 55 feet of water, while the Margarita was grounded on a wide shoal six miles north of the Atocha.

La Capitana 1654

On October 18, 1654, the Capitana was ready to set sail. However, fate intervened when the anchor cable parted sending the anchor to the sea floor. Recovery of the anchor took all day and it was nightfall before the Capitana was again ready to set sail. She left port accompanied by an 1,100 ton galleon called the San Francisco Solano (the “Solano”). The voyage proved to be an uneventful one until the night of October 26 when the lookout of the Capitana saw the breakers up ahead. Unfortunately, efforts to turn the Capitana around only drove it into a large reef just off the coast of Chanduy, Ecuador. Striking the reef hard three times, they lost their rudder and began taking on water.

La Consolación 1681

The Viceroy of Peru commanded La Consolación to set sail alone despite advice from royal officials who were against it because of the ever present danger of pirates. The treasure had to reach Panama in time to set sail with the Armada for Spain.  La Consolación soon met with pirates who were under the direction of Captain Bartholomew Sharpe (an English privateer). The rivalry between Spain and England was fierce in 1681, and Captain Sharpe was on the hunt for Spanish ships loaded with gold and silver. Accounts vary, but Captain Sharpe led anywhere from three to six ships. When La Consolation’s Captain Juan de Lerma saw the pirate ships, he altered course and attempted to seek safety in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The pirates gained on him quickly and he decided to take evasive action near Santa Clara Island, but before he could reach the island he struck a reef. As La Consolación began to take on water, the passengers and crew evacuated on smaller boats and in order to prevent the English from obtaining the treasure, La Consolación was set on fire. They then sailed for the island of Santa Clara for safety. The pirates were furious when they realized the ship had been intentionally set on fire. They followed the survivors (approximately 350), captured many of them and beheaded them when they realized how much treasure had been on La Consolación. Because of Captain Sharpe’s brutal attack on the survivors of La Consolación, the Ecuadorians nicknamed the island of Santa Clara “Isla de Muerto” or “Island of the Dead”.

The Maravillas 1656

The Maravillas was blessed by the Archbishop of Havana and set sail for Spain on New Year’s Day, 1656 along with 22 armed warships. The chief navigator was sure they had cleared the sand shoals and coral reefs of the Bahamas when all of a sudden; a reef appeared on the horizon. A cannon was fired to warn the rest of the fleet to alter their course. Not all the ships responded to the warning and as the Maravillas came about, she was rammed head-on by a smaller ship. Water began pouring into the Maravillas’ hold and the masts of the two vessels became tangled. As the crews worked frantically to free the rigging, water continued to flood the Maravillas and she finally settled in 30 feet of water. The crew knew the treasure had to be saved. As plans were made to recover the treasure, a storm moved in and within hours the Maravillas disappeared into the sea. Only 45 of the crew survived and the king’s treasure was lost again. King Philip IV died in 1665 without ever recovering the solid-gold statue. 

Rooswijk 1739

On December 18, 1739, Captain Daniel Ronzieres set sail for Batavia, along with three other ships in what was known as the Christmas Fleet. The voyage would not last long. Just one day after leaving Texel, the Rooswijk was caught in a heavy storm. The ship struck the Goodwin Sands off the southeast coast of England. The Goodwin Sands was also known as “the ship-swallower” because of its shifting sands and strong currents. The weather was so bad that boatmen from the towns of Deal and Ramsgate (experts in salvage and rescue) were unable to launch their boats to look for survivors or cargo. There were no survivors.