Cannons recovered from the lost ships of Captain Morgan

Rio Chagres from fort 
Photo Gaspar Serrano

From Past Horizons

In the shallow waters surrounding Lajas reef at the mouth of the Chagres river in Panama, a team of archaeologists has recovered cannons from the site where infamous privateer Captain Henry Morgan’s ships were wrecked in 1671 while carrying Morgan and his men to raid Panama City.

Six iron cannons recovered from the reef are now undergoing study and preservation treatment by Panamanian researchers in cooperation with a team that has been studying the Chagres river with the permission of Panama’s Instituto Nacional de Cultura (INAC).

Since 2008, an underwater archaeology team led by James Delgado, Frederick Hanselmann, and Dominique Rissolo has surveyed, mapped, and documented submerged sites, shipwrecks, and the 500-years of maritime history that rests along the banks of the Rio Chagres.

In a press conference in Panama City on February 24, 2011, the team announced the recovery of the cannons from a shallow reef damaged by treasure hunters, whose blasting and dredging had exposed the fragile iron cannons to possible damage and loss. This led to the decision to recover the cannons.

The cannons were measured and photographed in 2008 and studied by Dr. Ruth Brown, formerly with the Royal Armouries in the UK, an internationally renowned early cannon expert.

The size and shape of the cannons appear to be a close match with the characteristics of small iron cannon of the seventeenth century; a more definitive identification of the cannons will take place after they are treated and years of encrustation and corrosion are removed in the laboratory.


Panama Captain Morgan Texas State University Tom Herbst Instituto Nacional de Cultura