Espiritu Santo el Mayor

Spanish treasure galleon found

Espiritu Santo el Mayor

By Lamaur Stancil - TCPalm

It’s taken almost four centuries for someone to find the shipwrecked remains of a Spanish treasure galleon, and it’s just east of Indian River County.

Orlando-based treasure hunter Tom Gidus said he’s been examining the debris from the ship, which is more than 14 miles east of the barrier islands.

Indialantic shipwreck historian Robert Marx said he reviewed pieces Gidus found and concluded they are from the ship known as the Espiritu Santo el Mayor, a 480-ton galleon that sank in a storm in 1626.

“A bronze cannon was found a number of years back and that is what led us to the area,” Gidus said.

Retrieving the pieces of the wreckage has become a long-term project, Gidus said. He’s dived and removed just a handful of loose pieces from the wreckage for identification purposes.

Much of the rest is partially or fully submerged under the sand of the ocean basin, he said. His crew will use either an airlift or underwater handheld blowers to retrieve the ship’s belongings.

Marx said the ship took 1 million pesos worth of valuables and 250 crew members down with her in the storm. Other ships in the fleet were able to save 50 crew members, Marx wrote in a book called “New World Shipwrecks, 1492-1825: A Comprehensive Guide.” Gidus also said shoals in the vicinity of the site made ships susceptible to wrecking there.

As more pieces from the ship are recovered, Gidus said he eventually wants to have them displayed at museums. Gidus’ company, Gold Coast Explorations, found a pair of 19th century wrecks last year on Florida’s Gulf Coast.