Treasure Shipwrecks Around The World

Listed below are some of the more valuable sunken treasures.


EL DORADO - Poetic justice in a tragic form took place on July 4, 1502. A fleet of 32 caravels had assembled at Santo Domingo four days before, making ready to sail for Spain. Among the passengers on Antgonio de Torres' flagship, El Dorado, was the scheming Bobadilla who had imprisoned Columbus two years earlier. By coincidence, their paths crossed again when Columbus put in at Santa Domingo on his return from a voyage. He didn't like the feel of the heavy, still atmosphere, recognizing the familiar forwarning of hurricane. He told Bobadilla as much, but his advice was scorned. Perhaps Bobadilla remembered the navigator's warning four days later as he struggled for his life in the watery fury of the worst hurricane ever recorded at that time. During twelve hours of July 4, its cyclonic winds and massive waves tore the flota to shreds, swamping a dozen of the ships in the Mona Passage and breaking most of the rest against the shores of Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, and Mona islands. Only five lived through the day. Twenty-seven caravels, among them El Dorado, were lost with over 500 lives, including Bobadilla's. There was treasure, in quantity, on the destroyed ships. Perhaps half of its gold nuggets and dust, and pearls, had been stowed aboard El Dorado. The single richest item was a solid gold table, reputed to weigh 1.5 tons, through which Bobadilla intended to express his gratitude to the Catholic Kings for his appointment as governor. The flagship was believed to have gone down in the Mona Passage, where depths of 1000 feet are encountered. No trace of its wreckage was discovered during the salvage work along the coasts after the seas had subsided. Much was recovered from wrecks which had been thrown up on reefs and beaches, but at least $3,000,000 (note: value was in 1962) in gold and pearls was gone. If accounts of Bobadilla's 3310-pound golden table were true, about $2,000,000 in treasure lie in the remanants of El Dorado, way down under Mona Passage. Some of the other wrecks against the coasts, partly salvaged or beyond reach of 1500 Indian skin divers, might make worthwhile targets for modern SCUBA-diving skin divers, but El Dorado and her treasures will probably never be found.


FLOR DE LA MAR - Wrecked in 1511, the Portuguese had a field day when they overran the ancient kingdom of Malacca in present-day Malaysia after its sultan declined a request for permission to trade there. Admiral Alfonso d'Albuquerque's men spent three days sacking the city and relieving it of 60 tons of gold booty plus the sultan's throne - not to mention his ingots and coinage - and more than 200 chests of diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires. The admiral called it "the richest treasure on earth that I have ever seen," and loaded it aboard the Flor de la Mar. The Portuguese didn't get far with it, though; she went down in a storm off the northern coast of Sumatra along with riches estimated to be worth $1.7 to $3 billion.


NEW SPAIN FLEET - In 1567, before the New Spain Flota of Captain-General Juan Velasco de Barrio sailed from Veracruz for Spain it received word that there were two English fleets waiting to intercept the flota-one near Havana and the other near the mouth of the Bahama Channel. To protect the treasure they decided to sail back to Spain by a very unusual route. Hugging the coast of Yucatan they turned south, passing south of Jamaica. They planned to sail toward the Virgin Islands, then head directly for Spain. However, when nearing Puerto Rico they were struck by a bad storm and forced to run before it. Six of the major ships of the flota, carrying over 3 million pesos in treasure were wrecked near the northwest tip of Dominica. The lost ships were: the Capitana, San Juan, 150 tons, Captain Benito de Santana; the Almiranta, Santa Barbola, 150 tons, Captain Vicencio Garullo; galleon San Felipe, 120 tons, Captain Juan Lopez de Sosa; nao El Espiritu Santo, 120 tons, Captain Juan de Rosales; and two unidentified naos of 120 tons each. Due to the storm, none of the other ships in the flota could stop to pick up the treasure or the survivors, most of whom reached shore, where they were all cruelly massacred by the Carib Indians.


NAU CHAGAS - Sunk on June 13th, 1594, the Portuguese carrack (merchant ship) Nau Chagas was returning home from the East Indies in June of 1594 bulging with treasure that included bounty rescued from two other wrecked ships. 3,500,000 cruzadoes, plus an unknown number of chests of diamonds, rubies and pearls. The overloaded vessel sailed into the Azores to replenish stocks, pulled out the next day, and came under protracted attack by four English warships. She went down in deep waters about 18 miles south of the channel between Pico and Fayal, in the Azores. The riches that sank with her is believed to have been thousands of tons of the richest cargo (including diamonds, rubies, and pearls) ever to leave an Asian port. Reputed value more than 1 Billion US Dollars.

Azores


NEUSTRA SENORA DE BEGONA, SANTO DOMINGO, SAN AMBROSIO & SAN ROQUE - The seven galleons of the Terra Firma Fleet left Cartagena in January 1605, confident that it was well past the hurricane season, and headed north toward Havana. As the fleet passed the Serranilla banks, halfway between Jamaica and Yucatan, a surprise storm struck. One ship was able to make it back to Cartagena, two pressed on and found shelter in Jamaica, but four galleons-carrying by some estimates about eight million pesos worth of gold, silver and emeralds went down on the Serranilla Banks. All of the crew and passengers, some 1,300 people in all were lost.


SANTISSIMA TRINIDAD - In 1616, Santissima Trinidad, a Spanish Manila Galleon, on her way to Acapulco, went down in a typhoon, somewhere around the Osumi Strait, off the southern extremity of Japan. Her cargo is estimated to have been 3,000,000 pesos (94 tons of coins).


MERCHANT ROYAL - Possibly the greatest hoard of sunken treasure still waiting to be found on the seabed around Great Britain is that which went down in the Merchant Royal, of Dartmouth, on 23 September, 1641. Returning to England with a king's ransom in Spanish treasure, her sinking in bad weather was witnessed by another vessel in company which reported the location as "ten leagues from Land's End". Carrying thirty-six bronze cannon, a crew of eighty and a few passengers under the command of Captain John Limbrey, in her hold lay "£300,000 in silver, £100,000 in gold, and as much again in jewel." Wooden chests held perhaps more than half a million Spanish silver pesos, 500 heavy bars of gold and thick ingots of silver, rubies, emeralds, diamonds and pearls by the hundreds, and heavy pieces of jewelry set with precious stones. Loss of the ship made news throughout maritime Europe. From the official London Gazette to the financial paper Mercurische Courant in Amsterdam, the reports alerted horrified merchants and financiers, who had expected to receive their jewels, silver, gold, laces and spices.

Merchant Royall Broadside


SAN FRANCISCO XAVIER - In 1656, the San Francisco Xavier was lost in Spain's Bay of Cadiz. After battling with an English squadron, she made for port and just before reaching her destination, blew up. She went down with more than 2,000,000 pesos (63 tons of coins).


LA VIERGE DU BON PORT - This East Indiaman is probably one of the richest French vessel ever lost at sea and never found. The La Vierge du Bon Port was bought in Saint Malo in 1664, armed with 30 cannons and 300 tons of cargo space. Her captain, Truchot de la Chesnaie, from Saint Malo also, was commanding this vessel on a special order from the Minister Colbert, a dedicated Minister for the Marine Affairs, appointed by Louis XIV, the Sun King.

At this time, France was far from the main European military power on land and sea. This mission was the first expedition to Madagascar for the creation of a strong colony on the island, under the privileged of the newly created French East India Company. For this purpose, four ships were being prepared in Le Havre, La Rochelle and Saint Malo and gathered together at Brest for a cost to the Company of more than 500,000 Livres.

With 230 elite crew and 288 passengers (soldiers, high rank civil servants, etc.), the little squadron left Brest on 7 of March 1665, and reach Madagascar on the 10th of July, for the "Le Saint Paul" and at the end of August, "Le Taureau" and "La Vierge du Bon Port" also reach their destination. The goals for this first expedition, were principally to send to France, in the shortest times, a ship fully loaded with a large variety of samples which could be found in Madagascar and the islands in its vicinity. It was vital to show to everybody a first good result for the future expeditions.

On the 20th of February 1666, the ship "La Vierge du Bon Port", full of goods and merchandise, was ready to sails on a voyage back to Le Havre, in France. Unfortunately, several month later, on the 9th of July, her voyage almost completed, she was attacked by an English corsair and sunk off Guernsey, with her 120 crew, the remaining survivors taken as prisoners and brought to England. With this event, perished all hopes for a rich colony to be raised and the commercial loss resulting from this expedition was immense, as all her treasures were lost forever. She sank fast, and thirty six English crewmen drowned while trying to save the treasure.

Although the initial report valued her cargo and contents at £1,500,000, a Channel Islander stated that this was a gross underestimate, since one chest alone of precious stones known to be aboard was valued at £40,000, and ambergris and other things were equal to a further £400,000. No record exists of any salvage on the wreck, so her remains probably lie on the seabed near the Channel Isles, awaiting discovery by some future generation of treasure seekers or salvage divers.


ISABELA - Somewhere south of Cape Santa Maria, Portugal, is the hull of the 600 ton Isabela, perhaps five miles from shore at a depth of 400 feet. The galleon, part of Duke de Veragua's armada of 1672, capsized and foundered there en route to Seville during a tempest. Her captain, Juan de Ugarte, and all 400 aboard were drowned. There is something like $1,000,000 in Colombian and Peruvian gold lying in the her waterlogged beams and ribs.


SOLEIL D'ORIENT - A vessel of the French East India Company, 1000 tons, one of the three most important and richest shipwrecks in the world. The 'Soleil d'Orient' set sail in 1681 with gifts from the King of Siam (Thailand) to King Louis XIV of France, the Pope, wife of the eldest son of Louis XIV, Duke of Burgundy, Duke of Anjou, Marquis of Croissy, Marquis of Sergnelay, Abbot of Choisy; three ambassadors and 20 valets accompanied the gifts including 60 crates of royal magnificent presents; major gifts from M. Constance and King of Bantam (including 'hundreds of diamonds') were also part of the cargo. Most accounts say she hit land and broke up near the southeast tip of Madagascar, so the wreckage may be in shallow water. Inside, the first to find it will discover a 1,000-piece gold dinner set (a gift from the Emperor of Japan), as well as silver, and porcelain. Some of the porcelain was a gift from the Chinese emperor, so the historical value is enormous.


HMS SUSSEX - On December 27, 1693, a mighty fleet of 166 merchant vessels and more than 40 men-of-war gathered off Portsmouth. At their head was the pride of the Royal Navy: HMS Sussex, an 80-gun ship of the line launched just eight months earlier, to destroy the forces of Britain's enemy, those of Louis XIV, the Sun King.

All but the lowliest crew member among the ship's company of 560 or so had some idea of where they were heading: to trading ports around the coasts of Lebanon and Turkey. In the privacy of his cabin, however, as the Sussex prepared to set sail, Admiral Sir Francis Wheeler was contemplating the envelope that contained his secret orders. On behalf of William III, and amid utmost secrecy, Admiral Wheeler was to bribe the Duke of Savoy with the gold to keep him in the Nine Years' War with France, and allow the Grand Alliance to attack Louis XIV through his weakly-defended southern border.

But the gold never reached the Duke. A day out of Gibraltar, the Sussex was caught in a gale that sprang from nowhere, and grew to an unprecedented ferocity. In modern parlance, it came close to being "the perfect storm," of the kind seen only once in 100 years. In the early morning gloom on February 19, 1694, as the log of HMS Carlisle recorded: "The Admiral was foundered and not a soul saved but two Turks." Somewhere in the bowels of the ship were iron chests packed with gold and silver coins, worth £1 million in the 17th century, and much, much more now - some estimates have suggested £2.6 billion.


SAN JOSE - The San José is considered to be one of the richest treasure ships ever lost in the Western Hemisphere. She sank in about 1,000 feet of water on June 8th, 1708. This loss resulted from a battle with an English squadron. Due to the ongoing War of the Spanish Succession, no treasure had been sent from South America to Spain for a period of six years. English Commodore Charles Wager tracked down the treasure-laden ship 16 miles off Cartagena and sunk it in 1000 feet of water. The San José was loaded with eleven million pesos (about 344 tons of gold and silver coins). 116 chests of emeralds, and the personal wealth of the Viceroy of Peru. Admiral Wager described the action, "It was just sunset when I engaged the Admiral [San Jose], and in about an hour and a half, it being them quite dark, the Admiral blew up. I being than along his side, not a half pistol's shot from him, so that the heat of the blast came very hot upon us, and several splinters of plank and timber came on board us afire. We soon threw them overboard. I believe the ship's side blew out, for she caused a sea that came in our ports. She immediately sank with all her riches." An eyewitness report indicates that it went down off Baru Island, between the Isla del Tesoro (known as Treasure Island) and Baru Peninsula, in an area near Cartagena, in what is today known as Colombia. The estimated Value of the cargo today is more than 1 Billion US dollars.


SANTA ROSA - In 1726, the Santa Rosa a Portuguese ship carrying registered gold bullion and coins she had picked up in Salvador, caught fire and blew up off the coast of Brazil. Weighed down by more than five tons of gold, the galleon Santa Rosa, the mightiest ship in colonial Portugal's fleet, set sail for Europe from the Brazilian port of Salvador in late August 1726. On Sept. 6, just as the ship passed Recife, the gunpowder in its hold blew up and it sank, killing all but seven of the 700 men, women and children aboard. The explosion probably was an accident, but it could have been sabotage. No one knows for sure, and the treasure may have been transferred to another ship before she blew up.


LA VICTORIA - Sank on Anegada in 1738, with the loss of all her cargo. She was carrying on board treasure to the value of $1,750,000.00, which if multiplied with inflation would represent a vast sum today. There was no recorded salvage of this ship and to the best of anybody’s knowledge, the vessel is still lying on the bottom with her cargo intact.


HMS Victory

HMS VICTORY - In 1744, Admiral Sir John Balchin, whose flag was flying on board the Victory, was returning from Gibraltar, when, having reached the Channel on the 3rd of October, the fleet was overtaken by a violent storm. The Victory was a 'first rate man-of-war and ship of the line' of the eighteenth century, and the largest ship in the world at the time of its construction at Portsmouth in 1737. With a tonnage of 1,921 burden, a beam of 50 feet, a gun deck of 174 feet in length, and a complement of 100 to 110 bronze cannon, the Victory represented a peak in ship construction. On the 4th, the Victory separated from the fleet, and was never heard of again. She had on board 900 sailors, plus a complement of marines, and more than fifty volunteers, sons of the first nobility and gentry in the kingdom. It is supposed that she struck upon a ridge of rocks off the Caskets, as from the testimony of the men who attended the light, and the inhabitants of the island of Alderney, minute-guns were heard on the nights of the 4th and 5th, but the weather was too tempestuous to allow boats to go out to her assistance. The King settled a pension of £500 per annum on Sir John Balchin's widow. Thus perished the finest ship of the British Navy, and with it, £400,000 in gold coins taken on in Lisbon and specie from her captured prizes. The next HMS Victory built in 1760, became Lord Nelson's flagship, and is now a floating museum at Portsmouth's Royal Naval Dockyard.


EL SALVADOR - The Spanish merchant ship was one of a fleet of vessels traveling from Colombia to Spain when it was pushed ashore between North Carolina and Maryland during the August 1750 storm. Some historical references say the El Salvador went down near Topsail Inlet (Beaufort Inlet was known as Old Topsail Inlet at the time), and other accounts put the wreck near Cape Lookout. The other ships sustained varying degrees of damage, but their crews and most of their treasures were saved.

According to historical records the El Salvador was carrying 16 chests of silver and four of gold when she went down in the area of Cape Lookout during a 1750 hurricane. A conservative estimate would put the value at $124 million in today's money. That makes the El Salvador one of the richest shipwrecks to be found along the American East Coast.


NOTRE DAME DE DELIVERANCE - All treasure-laden ships were not necessarily Spanish galleons, as ships of other nations also carried Spanish treasure back to Europe from the New World. In 1755, a period when no Spanish ships were available to carry treasure to Spain, as Spain and England were at war, a French ship named "Notre Dame de Deliverance" disappeared without a trace somewhere between Havana and Cadiz. Her cargo consisted of 1,170 pounds of gold bullion carried in seventeen chests, 15,399 gold doubloons, 153 gold snuff boxes weighing 6 ounces each, a gold-hilted sword, a gold watch, 1,072,000 pieces of eight, 764 ounces of virgin silver, 31 pounds of silver ore, a large number of items made of silver, six pairs of diamond earrings, a diamond ring, several chests of precious stones, plus general cargo consisting of Chinese fans, cocoa, drugs, and indigo.


L'ORRIFLAMME - In 1770, the largest ship to sail directly from Spain to Chile was the 1,200 ton galleon L'Orriflamme, which originally was a French warship. Her cargo was valued at over 4 million pesos, and she carried a crew and passengers numbering over 700. During a storm she was totally lost on the coast near Valparaiso, and there were only a few survivors. Salvage attempts were made, but very little was recovered.


GROSVENOR - The Grosvenor is considered to be the richest British East Indiaman ship ever lost. It wrecked on a reef August 4th, 1782, broke apart and sank on a deserted coast known as Pondoland, north of Port St. John, about 700 miles northeast of Cape Town, South Africa. The loss included 2,600,000 gold Pagoda coins (weight unknown), 1,400 gold ingots (weight unknown), nineteen chests of diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires and an extremely valuable jewel encrusted gold peacock throne from India. Many have tried to find the treasure, and the ship is claimed to have been found on a very inhospitable part of the coast, but the treasure is still to be located.


LA LUTINE - Wrecked in 1799, it isn't always deep water that keeps shipwrecked treasure hidden. The British frigate Lutine was carrying 1,000 bars of gold and 500 bars of silver from London to Hamburg in 1799, when she went down in a gale the sandbank covered waters between the islands of Vlieland and Terschelling in Holland's West Frisian Islands, her cargo swallowed by the eternally shifting sand banks that have digested thousands of other ships. A few gold and silver bars were salvaged, and the ship's bell was recovered in 1858. The rest of the buried riches are estimated to be worth some $30 million dollars today. The Lloyd's of London insurance payout was the largest ever at the time.


8 Reale

MERCEDES - While traveling in a small fleet of four ships returning to Spain from South America in 1804, the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, carrying enormous quantities of gold, silver and jewels, was blown up by the British off Cape Santa Maria, Portugal. Spain was at the time a neutral country, but was showing strong signs of declaring war in alliance with Napoleonic France. Acting on Admiralty orders Vice-Admiral Sir Graham Moore required the Spaniards to change their course and sail for England. The senior Spanish officer, Rear-Admiral Don José Bustamente, refused and opened fire on the British, leading to a short battle during which the Mercedes exploded. A Spanish account of the Mercedes describes her as "breaking like an egg, dumping her yolk into the deep." The account also goes on to say that the Mercedes didn't sink immediately, but that "the decks were awash save for the poop." Most of the survivors were rescued from the Mercedes' forecastle after it had separated from the remainder of the hull. In a letter to Cornwallis, Admiral Moore stated that the four Spanish ships carried 4,436,519 gold and silver pesos, 1,307,634 of which belonged to the king of Spain. After the incident Spain declared war on England.

Mercedes Exploding


RMS Amazon

RMS AMAZON - The R.M.S.P.Co.´s liner Amazon was a new ship sailing on her maiden voyage to the West Indies. She was a paddle-steamer, built entirely of wood and fully rigged. The Amazon left Southampton on Friday, January 2nd, 1852, with 161 persons on board, of whom 110 were crew. A strong headwind was blowing and in order to make a quick passage across the Bay of Biscay to pick up fine weather beyond, the master, Capt. Symons, drove his small 800 horse-power engines at full speed. As a result the bearings became overheated and there was considerable difficulty in the engine room. On Sunday morning, January 4th, when about 110 miles W.S.W. of Scilly, Mr. Treweek, the second officer, observed flames coming from the direction of the engine room. He gave the alarm and the watch went to fire stations, an examination revealing that the outbreak had occurred in the ship´s store, where a quantity of oil and tallow was kept. Despite every attempt to conceal the news from the passengers it leaked out, and on the orders of Capt. Symons they were confined to the saloon below, an action which had the effect of engendering such panic among them that they burst open the door and swept aside the stewards, and rushed on deck.

The state of affairs was now very grave. The fire having started near the engine room it was found impossible to stay there, though the fourth engineer made an heroic attempt to stop the engines. From this moment until the end, the engines, quite out of control, continued to force the vessel through the water. The hose-pipes were burned through and buckets proved useless. In the end the captain ordered out the boats, of which there were nine, but two of these were found to be on fire. Panic had now descended upon crew as well as passengers, and with the ship running before the wind, her sails set and her engines going, she became nothing less than a raging furnace. Finally her small magazine of powder, kept for the guns in case of piracy, exploded, and she went to the bottom.

Twenty-one persons were saved in one boat. Thirteen in another boat under the guidance of Lt. Grylls, R.N., a passenger, were picked up by a Dutch galliot in the Bay of Biscay after an adventurous voyage. The rest of the survivors were rescued by another Dutch vessel and taken to Brest. In all 59 persons were saved and 102 drowned. Capt. Symons went down with his ship. The value of the Amazon's cargo was estimated at about £100,000 (equivalent to £8,413,836 in 2007, and included £20,300 in specie and 500 bottles of mercury for mining use worth around £5,150.

NAPRIED - In June 1872, the Napried departed Beirut bound for Boston. Its cargo of rags caught fire and the vessel burned and sank somewhere off the coast. In addition to the rags, the Napried carried a shipment of Cypriot antiquities sent by Luigi Palma di Cesnola, the American consul to Cyprus. Over time he amassed a collection of antiquities comprising approximately 35,000 pieces. (About 5,000 of these were lost on Napried.) He negotiated with several museums around the world for the purchase of the collection, and eventually sold the bulk of it to the newly formed Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Cesnola became the first Director of the Met and served in that position until his death. The 'Cesnola Collection' remains an important holding of the Met to this day.

In August, 1870, when the collection was examined by the representative of the Russian imperial museum, there were about 13,000 articles, among which were many statues and statuettes, 1,800 lamps, 5,000 vases, 2,000 coins. 1,700 pieces of glass ware, 600 gold ornaments, 300 bronzes, and 100 inscriptions. The collection of coins was of great value and interest, but it was lost by the shipwreck of the vessel in which it was sent from Beyrout to England. In it were coins belonging to the best Greek period, the age of Phidias. There were coins of the Greek imperial class, among which were those of Alexander, the Seleucidse, and a series of those of the kings of Cyprus. There was one beautiful gold coin, weighing 22 dollars (?), struck by Ptolemy Philadelphia. There were also Indian, Greek, Ptolemaic, Cypriote, Roman, Byzantine, Lusignanian, and Venetian coins, in gold, silver, and bronze. The inscriptions promise to be of great historical value.

PRINS FREDERIK - The Prins Frederik, built in 1882 by J.Elder & Co. of Glasgow, Scotland, was a screw-propelled iron steam ship with a gross tonnage of 2,978 tons. Like her sister ship, the Prins Alexander, the luxuriously-fitted vessel was built for the Dutch shipping line, Maatschappy Nederland, and offered her passengers a most comfortable journey to the East. Under Captain Klaus Visman, the steamer departed from Amsterdam, Netherlands, on 21 June 1890. She was carrying a full complement of crew and 193 passengers en route to Java, Indonesia, a long and arduous voyage. Apart from a general cargo and the usual mails, she also had on board 400,000 silver rijksdaalders, which were locked in the ship's secure bullion room. The coins, stowed in wooden casks, were intended for the payment of the Dutch army in Batavia (Jakarta).


The Prins Frederik made a short call at Southampton, England, departing on 24 June. By 1.30 p.m. the following day, she was just north of the Bay of Biscay. The island of Ushant was observed bearing SE quarter E, at a distance of about 10 nautical miles and the captain ordered the ship's course to be altered to SW quarter W. At the time, the vessel was making full speed of about 11.5 knots. At around 6 p.m., when increasingly foggy conditions hampered the visibility, the ship reduced speed in accordance with standard marine measures.

In the meantime, a British steamship, the Marpessa, commanded by Captain Geary, was traveling across the Bay of Biscay in the opposite direction. At 10.40 p.m. on 25 June, Captain Geary calculated that his ship was in the position 47.00 (degree)N 6.30 (degree)W when he heard another ship's whistle a little in front on the port side. Later, Captain Geary claimed that the Marpessa was traveling at only 3 knots and that upon hearing the other ship's whistle he had quickly put the ship into reverse.

These avoidance measures were not enough, however, and the two ships collided. The bows of the Marpessa were stoved in, and the Prins Frederik was holed around its engine rooms on the starboard side. Shortly after the collision the Prins Frederik sank. However, her boats had already been lowered and all passengers and crew were taken on board the Marpessa. The fore hold of the Marpessa filled with water but the rest of the ship remained sound. According to Captain Visman, the Prins Frederik was not traveling at full speed, as had been suggested by Captain Geary, but only at 2-3 knots. Like Geary, Visman claimed that as soon as the other ship's whistle was heard the Prins Frederik's engines were stopped and the ship put in reverse.


SS ANCONA - The SS Ancona, a popular Italian-American liner, which had been making frequent trips between Naples and New York since it had been launched from Glasgow in 1908. Beginning in 1915, German U-boats were lurking in the Mediterranean with the intention of attacking allied war ships transporting troops and munitions to the European front. However, according to ship manifests, when the Ancona left Naples on Saturday November 6, 1915, to make a brief stop at Messina, Sicily, she was carrying no guns or munitions. On board were mostly women and children immigrants along with 83 first class passengers, 12 barrels of gold sovereigns, and a shipment of silver bars.

SS Ancona

At 1:00 p. m. off the coast of Cape Carbonara, Sardinia, Captain Massardo spotted two white turrets and four guns from which flew a German flag, which was lowered and quickly replaced by an Austrian flag. Sensing danger, the captain ordered the ship full steam ahead. What happened next depends upon who was telling the story. In testimony given by the captain, the submarine fired a warning shot, at which point the captain immediately stopped his vessel. In spite of his compliance, the U-boat expelled two shots striking the Ancona both forward and aft. As the Ancona radioed for help, an explosion resulted causing the liner to begin to sink rapidly before any life boats could be lowered. Later, German authorities would claim that the reason why the submarine attacked was precisely because the Ancona refused to stop.


British India Steam Navigation Co.

SS MANTOLA - On Feb. 8, 1917, on her way out to India, the newly built ship, 8260 tons, under the command of Capt. D.J. Chivas was torpedoed by U-81 143 miles WSW of Fastnet, Ireland. Despite all attempts to save the vessel she started sinking at the head. All were safely got into boats, save seven Indian crew who drowned. The submarine appeared again and started sending more shells into the vessel but stopped this when HMS Laburnum made an appearance. The Navy ship took Mantola under tow, but the rope parted and the seas were too rough to attempt it again so she was left to sink. Survivors were landed at Bantry the following day. She was carrying 600,000 ounces of silver.

SS Mantola


SS LACONIA - The SS Laconia was a Cunard Liner of 18,099grt, and built in 1911, by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson. On the outbreak of WWI, SS Laconia was turned into an Armed Merchant Cruiser in 1914, and based at Simonstown in the South Atlantic, from which she patrolled the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean until April 1915. She was then used as a headquarters ship for the operations to capture Tanga and the colony of German East Africa. Four months later she returned to the patrolling of the South Atlantic. She was handed back to Cunard in July 1916, and on September 9th, resumed service. On the 25th February 1917, she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-50, 160 miles NW x W of the Fastnet while returning from the United States to England with 75 passengers (34 first class and 41 second class) and a crew of 217 under the command of Captain Irvine. The first torpedo struck the liner on the starboard side just abaft the engine room, but did not sink her. Twenty minutes later a second torpedo exploded in the engine room, again on the starboard side, and the vessel sank at 10:20pm. Twelve people were killed, six crew and six passengers, including two American citizens. It was reported in the New York Times of February 27, 1917, that the SS Laconia carried 1000 bars of silver insured for £128,000, a very valuable registered mail insured for £6,446, and a large quantity of specie insured for £53,452 (132 boxes of silver coins).

SS Laconia


SS GAIRSOPPA - The SS Gairsoppa was a British Cargo Steamer of 5,237 tons built by Palmers, Hebburn, England for the MoWT as the SS War Roebuck, but completed as the SS Gairsoppa for the British India Steam Navigation Co. Ltd, London. On February 17, 1941, she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-101, and sunk 200 miles SW of Ireland. She carried 2600 tons of pig iron, 1765 tons of tea, 2369 tons of general cargo, and £600,000 worth of silver ingots & specie (3 to 7 million ounces).

SS Gairsoppa


On March 5, 1942, the SS Benmohr, 5920 tons, Ben Line Steamers, while on route from Bombay - Durban - Freetown - Oban, was torpedoed by the U-505 about 210 miles south-southwest of Freetown. She was carrying 8539 tons of general cargo, including 1.5 million ounces of silver bullion, pig iron, and rubber.

SS Benmohr


On August 21, 1942, the SS City of Wellington, 5714 tons, Ellerman Lines Ltd, London, while on route from Lourenco Marques - Mossel Bay, South Africa - Freetown - UK, was torpedoed by the U-506 southwest of Freetown. She was carrying 5000 tons of general cargo, 500 tons of chrome ore, 2000 tons of copper ore, and platinum.

SS City of Wellington


On November 6, 1942, the SS City of Cairo, 8034 tons, Ellerman Lines Ltd, London, while on route from Bombay - Durban - Capetown - Pernambuco, Brazil - UK, was torpedoed by the U-68. She was carrying 7422 tons of general cargo, including pig iron, timber, wool, cotton, manganese ore, and 2000 boxes of silver coins (3 million ounces). A second torpedo caused the ship to sink by the stern about 450 miles south of St. Helena.

SS City of Cairo













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• Buried Treasure • Metal Detectors • Shipwreck Treasure • Treasure Diving • Treasure Hunting • Treasure Maps • Treasure Ships •