" Still Out
There" is a series of articles by noted author and historian Timothy R. Walton, and
it highlights the treasures that sill lie buried on the ocean floor. For the serious treasure finder these articles
should provide the adrenaline to take the "project" off the back burner and turn
it into a dream come true. The historical
facts are supported by archival documentation. The
rest is up to the treasure hunter.
The area in and
around the harbor of Veracruz, Mexico, has one of the largest concentrations of wrecked
Spanish treasure galleons in the world, but these are also among the least salvaged and
most inaccessible sites in the seven seas. From
the 1560s to the 1770s, the Spanish tried to send two treasure fleets a year to bring back
to gold and silver from their colonies in the Western Hemisphere. One fleet sailed to Spanish Main, the northern
coast of South America, to load the treasure from that continent; the second fleet sailed
to Veracruz to gather silver from the mines in Mexico.
The outbound fleets from Spain carried European-style food items that the colonists
craved, such as wine and olive oil, as well as manufactured goods, such as textile and
weapons. The galleons from Spain also brought
gunpowder and mercury, which were used in mining and refining ore.
|Piece-Of Eight (1600s) From Mexico City Mint. The type of silver coins that were shipped from Veracruz and might be expected to be found on many of the shipwrecks near port city.|
Spanish officials tried to time the movements of the treasure fleets to avoid hurricanes, which were the most serious threat to a safe voyage, but the size and complexity of the work that was necessary to prepare a fleet for sea meant there were often delays. Over the period lasting more that two centuries that the treasure fleets were in operation, there were dozens of wrecks in and around Veracruz. The number of wrecks in the region is large because Veracruz was the only port on the east coast of Mexico through which silver was exported, and the open roadstead provided little protection against storms.
A diver interested
in the many wrecks in the Veracruz area would have to distinguish carefully between wrecks
of ships inbound from Spain and those outbound for the return voyage. Wrecked inbound ships would have been carrying
cargo that would have largely disintegrated over the centuries, although there might still
be interesting artifacts that have survived. It
was the outbound ships, with silver on board, that would be of most interest to the
Probably the most intriguing wreck for treasure divers is that of Nuestra Senora
del Juncal, which sank in 1631 just north of the city.
The ship was part of a fleet carrying over 3,000,000 pesos worth of silver that was
hit by a hurricane shortly after leaving Veracruz. Unlike
most of the other wrecks of ships carrying treasure, there is no record of a salvage
operation immediately after the sinking.
Despite the many
interesting wreck sites in and around Veracruz very little in the way of treasure or
artifacts has been recovered because of the formidable obstacles against salvaging. Today Veracruz is a major port, and there is not
much interest in interrupting profitable trade for salvage operations that may be only
speculative. The large amount of traffic
through the port, especially in recent years, means that any old wrecks have been obscured
by more modern wrecks or the huge amounts of garbage that have been dumped by ships over
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Reprints of "The Best Of Treasure
Quest Magazine" are used with permission from a series of stories in Treasure Quest
by Bob "Frogfoot" Weller, Ernie "Seascribe" Richards and other great modern day treasure hunters.
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