Jewels, Gold Recovered After 366 Years on Sea Floor

The Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas had already been salvaged many times
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2022 2:22 AM CDT
Updated Aug 6, 2022 6:00 AM CDT
Treasure Recovered After 366 Years on Sea Floor
This Aug. 31, 2019 file photo shows a beach in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas.   (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File)

(Newser) – The Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas (Our Lady of Wonders) sank in the Bahamas in 1656, laden with gold and jewels. The Spanish shipwreck had already been salvaged many times in the following centuries, and yet another expedition was recently launched—and turned out to be very worthwhile, the Guardian reports. The debris trail that marine archaeologists and divers found the treasure along spanned more than 8 miles. Among the finds: gold chains and pendants; jewelry including clusters of emeralds, amethysts, and other gems; silver coins; Chinese porcelain; a pearl ring. The finds, which are the property of the Bahamian government, will be displayed in the Bahamas Maritime Museum, a new museum opening in the Bahamas Aug. 8, the Smithsonian reports.

The Maravillas was heading home to Spain with treasures from the Americas (and some contraband), plus some salvaged from another wrecked Spanish ship, when it collided with the flagship of its fleet following a navigational error. Just 45 of the 650 people aboard survived. Carl Allen, the founder of Allen Exploration, which carried out the latest expedition, says the wreck was "heavily salvaged by Spanish, English, French, Dutch, Bahamian, and American expeditions in the 17th and 18th centuries, and blitzed by salvors from the 1970s to early 1990s." They weren't interested in the science, just in the treasure, he says; his team is the first to survey it scientifically, investigating how the ship was wrecked and how hurricanes scattered the debris over the ensuing years.

The team used magnetometers to identify spots with possible metal over a search area that spanned 11 miles by 5 miles, and intricately mapped all their findings over a period of three years. Says the director of marine archaeology for the project, "This isn’t just forensic marine archaeology. We’re also digging into former excavations, working out what previous salvage teams got up to, where and why. So much data has been lost from this ravaged wreck. It’s time to reverse those trends." (Read more shipwreck stories.)

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