Atocha Shipwreck History
Monday, January 9, 2017 11:38:32 AM America/Los_Angeles
The Nuestra Senora de Atocha, meaning “Our Lady of Atocha” named after a holy shrine in Madrid, is without doubt one of the most famous shipwrecks in history. Beginning in the late 1500’s and extending through the mid 1700’s, a couple of fleets a year would depart from Spain in order to bring essential supplies to the colonists while bringing back as many riches from the New World as possible. The Atocha, part of a massive 28 ship convoy, was the most heavily protected ship for it carried a vast majority of the fleet’s treasures. An estimated 82 infantry men were assigned to guard this galleon that took over two months to record and load the silver, gold, jewels, and agricultural products aboard the ship. The main two concerns for sailors in this era were bad weather and pirates. Unfortunately, this fleets impressive defensive system was never able to be utilized.
On September 24 th , 1622, the 28 ship convoy finally departed six weeks later than planned due to the surplus of loaded treasure and cargo. Two days later, the fleet ran into an unexpected, vicious storm that demolished the five ships at the tail of the fleet including the Atocha which was assigned to protect the rear. The Spaniards immediately assumed salvage operations by using Indian Slaves to dive in the fifty-five foot deep water with the help of brass bulbs called diving bells. Another hurricane hit nearly a month after the wreck, scattering the treasure even further and making the recovery process all the more difficult. The loss of this ship’s cargo directly impacted Spain’s economy by forcing Spain to borrow more money in order to fund its role in the Thirty Years’ War.
In July 1985, a large portion of this ship’s treasures were located by Mel Fisher’s company, but not without the loss of thousands of lives along the way. Experts claim that the stern castle, the area of the ship that contains the most gold and rare jewels is yet to be found. Many people are still dedicating their lives in hopes of finding some of these incredibly rare and valuable treasures.
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