The term underwater archaeology conjures up images of discovering artifacts long-hidden on the seafloor. The more romantic notions involve treasure-hunting amongst shipwrecks.
One notable underwater archaeologist is Robert Marx, who has written over 60 books on the subject. He was one of the founders of the Council on Underwater Archaeology as well as the Sea Research Society. Marx was also instrumental in creating the professional research degree of Doctor of Marine Histories.
For these and more, Marx has earned the description of being “The True Father of Underwater Archaeology,” according to noted diving pioneer and magazine publisher, Dr. E. Lee Spence.
Marx’s main quest nowadays is a 1715 Spanish shipwreck that occurred off the Florida coast, near what is now Sebastian Inlet. It involved the flagship Capitana, which was then skippered by Don Juan Esteban de Ubilla.
“The 300th-year anniversary is coming up for the loss of that wreck and the whole fleet,” Marx informs. “I want to make sure people know about it.”
Centuries ago, during the Age of Exploration, fleets carrying treasure from the Americas would travel to Spain in galleons loaded with precious cargo. The return trip to Spain was often more hazardous because crews by then were fatigued – or even plagued by malnutrition and tropical diseases.
What’s more, the heavily laden fleet became vulnerable to pirate attacks. But bad weather was considered the greatest threat on account of its unpredictability.
Spain was highly dependent on the influx of riches from the New World to fill its coffers. Unfortunately the expansion policies of France, Britain, the Dutch, and the Holy Roman Empire had practically dwindled the currency flow from the Americas to Spain.
The English were a particularly formidable foe, effective in sinking many of Spain’s ships. By 1715 the War of Succession had ended, and Spain was in even more dire need of New World gold and silver to relieve its financial strain.