1715 Plate Fleet still resonates three centuries after its loss

Fleet destroyed by hurricane 300 years ago continues to yield gold coins
By , Coin World
Published : 08/28/15
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This particular salvage is deeply historic and relevant. When one sits and really ponders it, these artifacts were at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean 150 years before the Civil War, and the wreckage wasn’t rediscovered until the 1950s. 

That was when building contractor Kip Wagner found a coin on the beach after a hurricane and was curious about how it got there. Wagner then located the original Spanish salvage camp from the 18th century efforts, which led him to the conclusion that the wrecks were likely located near that section of beach.

Soon thereafter, in 1963, storied treasure hunter Mel Fisher got in on the action. Over the years, Fisher and his team found numerous coins and other artifacts.

The magnitude of this find is evident, but it very well may be its history that warrants just as much of the attention. Finding treasure from 11 separate vessels simply does not happen very often. 

The fleet was a group of 11 treasure-carrying ships (and one French frigate) bound from Havana to Spain, where the cargo would be used to support the nearly bankrupt Spanish crown, according to Queens Jewels LLC’s website. However, on July 30, 1715, a hurricane wrecked 11 of the 12 ships off the coast of Florida, as they headed up the Bahama Channel. 

The journey began 15 days prior to the storm, when the 12 ships headed north from the Havana Harbor for their journey back to Spain. Ships in the convoy were from a few different European countries. Captain General Don Juan Esteban de Ubilla led his five vessels of the New Spain flota, or fleet; Captain General Don Antonio de Echeverz y Zubiza commanded his six ships, the Tierra Firme squadron; and Captain Antonio Daire rounded out the group with his French ship, the Grifon. 

There’s said to be tens of millions of dollars’ worth of artifacts and objects still remaining in the Atlantic.

Not only does the treasure itself make this exploration unique, but the fashion in which it’s being found adds weight to proverbial sunken treasure scale. 

The reported discovery of the nine Royal coins on the 300th-year anniversary of the fleet’s sinking is one factor in a story line that adds mystique to the overall legend of the fleet. And as the exploration continues, there’s no telling what may yet be pulled from the depths of the Atlantic.

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