Oct. 3, 2012
-- Kitty Hawk, NC -- On August 29, 1750, hurricane winds drove a Spanish treasure fleet of seven ships up the coast of America. Because of damaged rigging and the north bound current of the Gulf Stream, the ships were rendered out of control as Mother Nature delivered them to the coast of North Carolina and Virginia. Two of the ships made it safely into Chesapeake Bay; two others were wrecked on the Eastern Shore, one as far north as the Maryland- Virginia boundary on Assateague Island. At Ocracoke, the treasure galleon, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
, came safely to anchor. A merchant ship called Nuestra Señora de Soledad
was lost at Drum Inlet south of Ocracoke. All of her treasure was saved. Lastly, El Salvador
, was dashed upon the sand banks of Cape Lookout , splitting open the ship, drowning all but four, and spilling her cargo which included sixteen chests of silver pieces of eight and four chests of gold. News of the disaster travelled quickly. Treasure fever swept the mid-Atlantic colonies. Never before had a Spanish treasure fleet been lost this far north. After mostly futile salvage attempts, the shipwrecks were forgotten in due course until the 1970s when modern technology and archival research gave birth to discoveries of numerous Spanish treasure ships in Florida and the Caribbean. News of these discoveries drove modern adventurers to seek the abandoned treasures of the 1750 fleet. Outer Banks author, John Amrhein, Jr., was one of them.
In 1983, he discovered the Spanish warship, La Galga
, buried in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Assateague Island. Afterwards, he continued his exhaustive research on the 1750 fleet in the archives of Europe and America. In 2007, he wrote the complete history of the La Galga
, her discovery, and her historical significance. In 2011, he wrote another book about the 1750 fleet called Treasure Island: The Untold Story
which connects the theft of treasure from the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
at Ocracoke Island and buried in the Caribbean with Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island
. In the end notes of his latest book he documents the fate of El Salvador
Treasure Hunters and archaeologists have searched for El Salvador
for over thirty years with no apparent success. Amrhein lays out his case that everyone may be looking in the wrong place in his new history blog, Yesterday on the Outer Banks
. Using the logs of two British warships stationed in Charleston, South Carolina, and Yorktown, Virginia, he recreated the path of the hurricane in order to predict the likely location for El Salvador
. Today this treasure would be worth many millions of dollars but Amrhein also documents that the treasure may have been recovered immediately after the ship wrecked.
“The treasure of the 1750 Fleet is not gold and silver” says Amrhein, “but the incredible stories that were left behind.”Photos: