Cannons from 1804 Spanish wreck recovered off the Algarve
- On 08/09/2017
- In Famous Wrecks
From Algarve Daily News
Two cannons, one each from the 16th and 17th centuries, have been recovered from the ocean floor by a Spanish team working off Faro, ending a campaign in which the Spanish government managed to prevent a US company from claiming the contents of Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes.
Several pieces of the frigate, sunk in 1804 by the English navy, have been recovered with the use of a Remotely Operated Vehicle from the Spanish Institute of Oceanography. The two cannon were recovered from the wreck lying 1,000 metres below the surface.
The archaeologist, Pedro Barros, of the Directorate General of Cultural Heritage underlined the importance of the recovery of the cannons which will "help us understand life on board at that time and the circumstances of the sinking of the frigate."
The Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes (Our Lady of Mercy) was a Spanish Navy frigate sunk by the British off the south coast of Portugal on 5 October 1804, during the battle of Cape Santa Maria. At the time of the naval action, Spain and England were at peace with each other. The frigate was part of a small flotilla sailing from Montevideo to Cadiz, transporting silver and gold from Peru and vicuna, cinnamon and quinoa.
This flotilla was intercepted by a British Navy task force, commanded by Graham Moore aboard HMS Indefatigable, and ordered to change course and proceed to a British port for inspection.
The Spanish commanding officer, Brigadier José de Bustamante y Guerra (1759-1825) objected that the two nations were at peace, declared that they would not comply with the order, and ordered battle quarters, despite being outgunned and outnumbered.
A single shot from HMS Amphion, commanded by Samuel Sutton, hit the ship's magazine causing an explosion that sank the ship. 250 crewmen were lost, and 51 survivors were rescued from the sea
The United States company, Odyssey Marine Explorations, discovered the wreck and recovered almost 500,000 silver and gold coins in 2007, transporting them to the US. The value was estimated at 500 million US Dollars
A court case followed after Spain claimed the vessel carried its flag. Peru had claimed the treasure originally had been plundered by the Spanish but the court decided that the Spanish government was the rightful successor of interest because at the time of the wreck, Peru was considered a Spanish colony and not a separate legal entity, therefore it had no legal standing to be entitled to the proceeds of the lawsuit.
Next, a U.S. federal court and a panel from the US Court of Appeals upheld the Spanish claim to the contents of the ship and Spain took control of the treasure in February 2012.