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Over the last five decades, salvage operations on known wreck sites have recovered significant quantities of Spanish Colonial coinage dating to the reigns of Carlos II (r. One of the first appraisals of the significance of the “1715 Plate Fleet”—so called because of its large silver cargo (plata being the Spanish word for silver)—is W.
At sunrise on July 24, 1715, 12 ships weighed anchor and sailed confidently out of the harbor in Havana, Cuba.
Six days later, the vessels found themselves in deep trouble.
Carrying millions of pesos in gold and silver, the combined Mexican flotilla of Admiral Juan Esteban de Ubilla and the private merchant flotilla (not an official Tierra Firme fleet) of Antonio de Echeverz had tried that day to sail past an ominous storm bearing down from the Bahamas.
) and found evidence of Spanish Colonial campsites. Air Force and NASA officers who were divers and “closet” treasure hunters, and in 1960 he partnered with them.
The artifacts he uncovered convinced Wagner beyond a doubt that the shipwrecks lie just offshore, but how to go about salvaging them? Their first season of treasure hunting proved fruitless, but the group soldiered on. That day, Wagner and his group recovered more than 2,000 Spanish silver 8 reales, or “pieces of eight.” Within days, they established the Real Eight Company, aptly named because of its principal items of salvage and because there were eight partners.
Modern efforts to find the remains of an “unknown” Spanish treasure fleet began in earnest in the late 1950s.