Cannons thought to be Captain Morgan's

By Patrick George  -  Statesman

Archaeologists searched in Panamanian waters for sunken pirate ship.

In 1671, the English pirate-for-hire Captain Henry Morgan spearheaded a raid on Panama, then the richest city in Spain's colonial empire, leading thousands of men and a naval fleet armed to the teeth.

But while Morgan was a brilliant military strategist, he wasn't much of a navigator, according to Texas State University underwater archaeology professor Frederick Hanselmann.

Not long after one of Morgan's advance parties captured a Spanish fortress at the mouth of the Chagres River, Morgan crashed his flagship, the Satisfaction, into a reef, causing it and three or four other ships to sink.

The ships disappeared into the water and were forgotten until last year when Hanselmann and fellow archaeologists unearthed cannons that might have belonged to Morgan's fleet.

It was the first archaeological study of the area and the first direct evidence of the presence of Morgan or his men.

After the wreck, Morgan continued up the river on foot to lead a devastating and politically controversial raid on what's now Panama City.

The guns recovered in September are undergoing restoration in Panama, where they will eventually be displayed in a museum. The team made the announcement of the discovery in late February.

Hanselmann, who joined Texas State in December, said the discovery is significant because it sheds light on an exciting time in human history, one that has captured people's imaginations in books and movies — such as Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" — but isn't well-documented archaeologically.

"Archaeology is all about our shared past," said Hanselmann, the chief underwater archaeologist and dive training officer with the River Systems Institute and the Center for Archaeological Studies . "This is a global story."

Panama caribbean Captain Henry Morgan Lajas Reef Chagres River Castillo de San Lorenzo