Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Urca de Lima Treasure

Urcas were flat-bottomed, round-bellied Dutch storage ships designed to go in shallow waters. Due to their capacity for carrying cargo, they were adopted for the Spanish-American trade route between Europe and the New World. The Urca de Lima was one of 10 treasure ships on their way back to Spain from Havana in 1715.

All were lost in a hurricane off the Atlantic coast. More than 700 seamen, including the Spanish commander, drowned from the 10 ships.

While there was no great royal treasure on board, the Urca De Lima did contain private chests of silver and some gold. After it was grounded by the storm, the Urca De Lima was one of the first vessels to be salvaged by the Spanish, who subsequently burned the hull down to the waterline to hide its location from the English.

The Urca De Lima was rediscovered in 1928. For the next half century the wreck was heavily salvaged. In the 1980s, the state of Florida stopped issuing salvage permits on the Urca De Lima and opened the wreck to the public as the state’s first Underwater Archaeological Preserve.