Edited from CKWS TV News report
Typical Spanish cargo
British newspaper article
Spanish coin minted in the new world
World News Article Published in THE SUNDAY TIMES February 28. 1999
Divers hunt for 500 golden galleons
by Derek Baldwin
Havana IT HAS been described as one of the world's greatest treasure hunts. A team of divers plunged into the crystal blue waters of
the Caribbean last week in a quest for the first of hundreds of Spanish galleons that sank off the coast of Cuba three centuries ago or more, laden with gold and silver pillaged from Latin America.
In an unprecedented
deal with President Fidel Castro, a Canadian company, Visa Gold, has won
the right to excavate
coral encrusted shipwreck sites off the northwestern coast of Cuba and around the tiny island of Juventud, which lies to the
The venture, which
could be the most lucrative in maritime history, is not only expected to
uncover the world's largest known
trove of sunken Spanish silver and gold but also looks likely to provide new insights into the ancient civilizations of the Aztecs
and Incas, whose artifacts were seized and transported to Spain in armadas of up to 100 ships.
From the early 16th
century, when Hernan Cortes, the legendary conqueror of Mexico, pioneered
the so-called silver route
across the Atlantic, Havana's deep harbor was Spain's gateway to the New World. The conquistadors of the countries two
great treasure fleets, the Tierra Firme and the Nueva Espana, put in there on their way to and from the main-land of south and
central America. Records show as many as 13,000 vessels passed through Cuba over the years. They carried the treasure
back to the Spanish port of Seville, then the world's commercial capital.
Many ships failed
to complete the journey, however, falling victim to pirates, buccaneers
and vicious storms. Their precious
cargoes often ended up on the sea bed. The ships that went down included the Santissima Trinidad, an Altimiranta-class galleon
armed with 60 cannon. It foundered in a hurricane in 1711, with the loss of $400m (£242m) in silver coins and other booty
bound for King Philip V of Spain.
About 400 sunken Spanish
ships are believed to lie in and around Havana harbor today, with 100 more
to the west. They are
thought to contain gold bullion, silver coins, ingots, gems and emerald studded jewelry worth billions of dollars. While
American salvers have methodically scoured the seabed off Florida, Cuban gunboats have kept them out of the island's waters
for four decades.
"So many other oceans
in the world have given up their secrets," said Phill Wright, a veteran
archeologist who led a team of Cuban divers into pounding surf about 10 miles west of Havana last week. "This
place still has wall to wall ships underwater that remain intact hundreds of years later. I don't expect it will be
difficult to find them. There are shipwrecks of many periods all long the area that we are searching."
Cuba's state owned
Carisub corporation tried for years to bring the treasure to the surface
but was frustrated by
lack of sophisticated equipment. Last year Castro, a keen diver in his youth, approved a deal under which Visa
Gold will keep half the proceeds of its excavations in return for its expertise in retrieval.
dives last week, the Canadian team was confident it was on the right trail.
It is expected to make
thousands more dives over the next four years, using remote tracking equipment to trace 93 wrecks.
"We found three piles
which were definitely ballast from a very old ship," said Wright. "Whether
Santissima Trinidad won't be certain until we can make more dives. We also found some pieces of metal and
ceramic shards in an area where the coral had broken away, exposing plates and bowls locked inside it."
Planes that have flown
over the site have taken photographs showing a row of five cannon and a
large pile of ballast
stones under the water with what appears to be the bow of a large ship protruding from sand and coral.
A giant gouge in the
coral reef suggests that a large ship, loaded to the gunwales, slammed
into it in a storm,
Probably killing most of those on board as giant waves pulverized the crew at passengers.
Further evidence has
come from documents unearthed bv the Canadian company in the Archives of
in Seville. A treasure map drawn up by a sugar plantation owner pinpointed the location of Spanish salvage
efforts immediately after the Trinidad sank on December 4, 1711 Some of the contents of her holds were
retrieved before a second tropical storm arrived two days later, sweeping part of the hull into deeper water. A
hurricane hit the coast 10 days later scattering the ship's cargo further afield.
Ed Burtt, the Canadian expedition leader,
says archival documentation shows much of the treasure remains,
although I.9m silver pieces of eight were saved. "It's hard to explain the feeling," he said as he uncrated and
calibrated $150,000 worth of search equipment that was shipped to Havana from Canada earlier this month.
"There is a sense
of reverence being down there with history - knowing a physical link to
the past has remained
untouched for so long. This is a wonderful chance for us to find and preserve a glorious chapter in history. Those
who lost their lives in the service of their king will not be forgotten."
Underwater archeological survey crew in Cuba.
Left to right:
NEWS RELEASE NEW READING OF MYSTERIOUS OAK ISLAND INSCRIPTION Theory points to possible connection with nearby Birch Island FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE HALIFAX, Nova Scotia: Wednesday, July 12th, 2006 - - For the past two centuries, the tunnels of Nova Scotia's Oak Island have piqued the imagination of historians and treasure hunters alike. Now, a new theory by First Nations researcher Keith Ranville may add fresh speculation to the mystery. Based on a unique reading of an inscription once found in the "Money Pit," Mr. Ranville believes that the answer to the riddle may be found on nearby Birch Island. Oak Island, located on the scenic Mahone Bay about an hour's drive south of the provincial capital of Halifax, has been associated with buried treasure since the late 18th century. Local settlers reportedly found a ship's tackle block hanging from a tree branch, overhanging a large depression in the ground. Early efforts to dig down failed when the diggers encountered layers of timber every 10 feet. In the ensuing generations, several organized excavation attempts have drilled down nearly 200 feet, en route encountering some artifacts within the staggered layers of logs, clay, putty, charcoal, flagstones and most perplexingly, coconut husks. Among the scores of enthusiastic treasure hunters was a young Franklin Roosevelt, one of the investors in a 1909 excavation attempt. During the earlier diggings of 1800's, the tunnel had become flooded by seawater - which many believed was the result booby trap being sprung - thus complicating further digging since then. A drilling effort in the mid 1800's was said to have uncovered fragments of a gold chain. In 1971, a camera was lowered into the pit and reportedly captured images of wooden chests and human remains. One of the most fascinating artifacts from the pit was said to be a flat stone recovered at the 90 foot depth, carrying a mysterious inscription. A fragment of stone with similar symbols was found nearby in Smith's Cove in the 1930's. The stone tablet itself has gone missing, but a record of its symbols remains. Until now, the consensus is that the symbols are a code translated as "forty feet below two million pounds are buried." However, Keith Ranville's theory offers a different interpretation as to the stone's symbols, which could lead to a new explanation of the Oak Island mystery. "I believe these symbols have been incorrectly assumed to stand for something else. In the First Nations tradition that I'm a part of, we believe symbols should simply be looked at in and of themselves, rather than thinking of them as codes that have to be cracked," Mr. Ranville explained. "In the pictograms of Cree Salavics, for example, the images are meant to be descriptive, not abstract." Using this approach, Mr. Ranville examined the Oak Island symbols and found what may be a set of instructions about a tunnel system involving both Oak Island and nearby Birch Island. For example, the stone inscription begins with a triangle symbol, which is repeated throughout. Mr. Ranville believes that this represents nearby Birch Island, which has a distinctly triangular clearing on its north shore. Likewise, a symbol showing a circle divided into two hemispheres can be thought of as representing north/south directional markers. A series of dots in singles, pairs and triplets may be quantitative symbols. Examining all the symbols in this way, Mr. Ranville believes that the symbols on the Money Pit's stone tablet are actually technical instructions describing the location and layout of a possible underground network involving both Oak Island and Birch Island. "There was a fragment of another stone tablet that was found on Oak Island's Smith Cove in the 1930's," Mr. Ranville explained. "It too has these types of symbols, but one in particular appears to be a Greek symbol designating 'underwater door'. In conjunction with the other symbols, I believe this points to underwater doors and additional shafts on Birch Island itself." Smith's Cove is on the part of Oak Island that is closest to Birch Island, and is said to have yielded several artifacts itself over the years. "Based on the inscribed symbols, I think we should be looking at Oak Island and Birch Island together in order to solve the mystery. If Birch Island proves to have underwater doors and tunnels around its triangular clearing, then it would be a huge step forward in our understanding of what Oak Island is all about." There have been many, occasionally bizarre, theories as to what the Oak Island tunnels may contain: a Masonic vault containing the Holy Grail, Viking or Pirate booty, Inca treasure, the French Royal Crown Jewels, payroll for colonial British soldiers or even the secret writings of Francis Bacon. Mr. Ranville prefers not to speculate. "Those are interesting and sometimes funny theories, but I'd rather just look at the evidence that we do have, and go from there." Mr. Ranville is a self-taught researcher born in Manitoba. While living in Vancouver, he became acquainted with the Oak Island mystery and began studying it. In October 2005, he relocated to Nova Scotia to further research and advance his theories on the subject. Both Oak Island and Birch Island are private property, and access must be sought by permission of the landowners.
Copyright of OCEAN SCAN INC.
rov side scan archeology shipwrecks scuba diving treasure hunting spanish galleons gold silver coins artifacts underwater research wreck diving ocean scan side scan rov rov side scan archeology shipwrecks scuba diving treasure hunting spanish galleons gold silver coins artifacts underwater research wreck diving ocean scan side scan rov