Shipwrecks and Lost Treasures of the Seven Seas

Richest wreck in the World...?

 


The elusive wreck of the Portuguese carrack
Flor do Mar


by Pascal Kainic



From all the sunken treasures in the world, there is at least one which has been described as the ultimate prize for treasure hunters, the Holy Grail of shipwrecks and most legendary lost treasures:

The Flor do Mar, also named Flor de la Mar.

Since her loss in early 1512 and until nowadays, no effort was spared to try to locate her remains and salvage the immense treasures she was said to be carrying. Speculations, assumptions, theories about her whereabouts has been the never ending subject of numerous salvage groups without giving a clue even almost 500 years later.



Historical background

The Flor do Mar (Flower of the Sea) was a Portuguese ship of 400 tons, built in Lisbon in 1502. Her maiden voyage was under the command of Estavao de Gama (brother of Vasco de Gama). She was part of the second voyage to India by the Portuguese in 1505. On her return voyage, she was beached rounding the Cape and put into Mozambique for repairs.

Then, she was taken out of the Lisbon - Goa route and participated in the conquest of Ormuz in 1507. She was also part of the battle of Diu in 1509, the conquest of Goa in 1510 and the conquest of Malacca in 1511. She was finally lost in a violent storm off the northern tip of the coast of Sumatra on her return trip to Lisbon with Alfonso de Albuquerque on board and the spoils of Malacca.


One of the reports of her loss:

«…After the spoils, the Portuguese fleet set sail for Goa under the command of Alfonso de Albuquerque with 4 other ships and a junk. The weather was fine with a calm sea when suddenly; sailing during the night along the coast of Sumatra, the fleet was hit by a terrible typhoon with huge waves and thunder. Trying to find refuge on the coast, the old and glorious Capitan was shipwrecked on the beach. Her old and rotten body opened itself and the ship was cut in two pieces. Her back completely embedded in the sand was demolished by the waves.

On the deck, Albuquerque tried to protect the daughter of one of his slaves waiting for their death. In this terrible situation, the jolly boat of the closest ship, the Trinity, succeeded in saving the Admiral as well as several other Portuguese, 5 in total. But the ship was fatally lost with her rich cargo and more than 400 men… With the Flor do Mar was lost the treasure for the King, gold, jewels and precious stones. Amongst the personal effects of the Governor were two lions in brass and the famous magic bracelet of the Rajah of Sabandar…»

From an original report from Albuquerque translated into English (long letter):

«…The monies in gold, silver, copper and tin are coined in Melacca. Much of the tin money was lost in the Flor do Mar…»

Another report from a real (?) eyewitness:

He states that the Flor do Mar sunk in 4 fathoms of water (7 meters), the ship was said to have the highest of both fore and aft castles of Albuquerque’s fleet, comparable to those of the Chinese junks. In that case, it is most probable that the wreck was still visible at the surface and very accessible to the locals. According to this witness, 100 souls were left on board and logically; most of the precious cargo could be saved afterwards. He reports that everything that water could not spoil was recovered…

Stories about her spoils and her cargo of treasure:

«…Aboard these ships are the rich plunder of Malacca and young boys and girls and specially the most rich objects ever seen. The Governor intended to offer them to Dona Maria, the Queen, and to the King himself. She was carrying a four legs table on which the Queen of Malacca used to take her meals that was worth 80.000 Cruzados. Even the merchants of Malacca offered 300.000 Cruzados to get it only for its precious stones. She was also carrying four sitting lions made of gold with perfumes inside. They used to be in the chamber of the King of Malacca, their eyes, tongs, teeth and nails were made of precious stones and their estimated value was 200.000 Cruzados…» According to other reports, she carried more than 80 tons of intricately worked gold objects and countless chests of precious stones and pearls.

Modern attempts of salvage:

Several attempts to salvage her cargo reputedly one of the richest in the world have failed until now. Based on faulty statements, it is notorious that President Soeharto himself spent US$ 20 millions in an unsuccessful search.

Nevertheless, some treasure hunters have claimed in the press having found the wreck. The American Bob Marx announced that he found her in 1992 after 3 days of survey, 100 miles away from the original search area. But according to the story, word leaked out immediately and the project was halted.

Portugal, Malaysia and other countries whose treasures had been plundered some 500 years ago lodged claims to the wreck in the International Court at The Hague. As a matter of fact, ownership has yet to be established today.

In March 1992, the front page of Skin Diver Magazine announces "80 billion dollar treasure lost and found"… But no real and solid evidence for this fact !

Before Marx’s venture a previous attempt was done in 1989 and 1990 by a group of Australian and American treasure hunters along with the Indonesian businessman Tjetty and his company South East Asia Salvage (SEAS). Their search was based on clues that the ship was lost on a rock or reef on the coast of Sumatra, just opposite to the kingdom of Daru. Survivors had managed to reach the river Pacem and the ship’s final resting place was this rock or reef within a cannon shot from shore.

Two main survey points were established as Tamiang and Pasai with an approximate distance of 60 miles between them to make a complete survey.

In May 1989, surveys began and 3 month later, only several old anchors were found, a Chinese junk rudder and a WWII steel wreck, but no evidence of the wreck of Flor Do Mar.

In March 1990, the decision was made to abandon the area and move to Pasai were surveys begun around karang Timau with the help of an archaeologist who claimed to know the precise location of the wreck. 200 meters southwest of Tengah reef, a large magnetometer reading was registered, but dives on the spot revealed nothing of significance. Even the airlifting of the soil, making a large hole was disappointing. Surveys continued and the airlifting was abandoned. Finally, SEAS was dissolved in 1992.

From a more serious and simple analysis of the region, as well as information from archives, all the indication available are only approximate. In these early ages of discoveries by the Portuguese, accounts of any sorts are evidently inaccurate. The maps were rough and the poor shipwrecked sailors gave the account they could only afford about their misfortune.

Flor Do Mar was stranded on the beach and sunk in the muddy bottom. She was lost in a high current area and during a storm. The rough conditions of the sea most probably destroyed what was left of her. A portion of her cargo almost certainly spilled out onto the seabed too, the rest being salvaged certainly later by the locals.

Of course, nowadays the ship’s body has not survived and it is, in all probability, very difficult to locate gold dust, coins or precious stones in a zero visibility diving area, with a muddy bottom and high currents…

Flor Do Mar has been reported to be one of the richest shipwreck, if not THE one, still to be found anywhere in the world. By reading most of the stories written on her, one would convince itself that it is true ! Therefore, a common sense and a true analysis of the whole data can only encourage oneself to keep this story as a beautiful dream and not as a serious investment in shipwreck salvage…

But after all, who knows…? December 2008 - Rumors have been spread that another salvage team is preparing itself to locate and recover the long lost treasures of Malacca.

Another scam to get investor’s money whatever the results is or the Real project this time…?

 


Portuguese carrack.jpg  Afonso de Albuquerque.jpg

 




Comments (28)

1. Kim Temple 03/12/2013

Thanks for posting this info on this truely fascinating shipwreck... Love it! Wish I could accompany any further exploration to find her..., but keep this site updated with any future attempts to locate her... If she wants to be found, she will, but maybe her story belongs a mystery... Thanks!

2. homepage 28/09/2013

I am really impressed together with your writing alents as smartly as with tthe structure
on your blog. Is this a paid topic or did you customize it
your self? Anyway stay up the excellent high quality writing, it is uncommon to see a nice weblog like this one nowadays..

3. Auvrey Wibowo 22/09/2013

I am citizen of Indonesia is ready to help if there is an interest to explore the area back in the store who allegedly referred to the shipwreck site. ([email protected])

4. treasures (link) 30/06/2012

Many people and teams are still looking for her... Or at least talking about looking for her...!!!

5. Edgar (Jose Moreira) Prates 11/07/2011

Hi Dinda,
The book is well known, it is written in old Portuguese - and translated few centuries afterwards. Author: Joao de Barros Title: "Asia Portuguesa" -, and there are some other chronicles at museum Torre do Tombo in Lisbon. These writings also describe another HUGE shipwreck which got lost in time, a Portuguese ship that departed Makassar (Indonesia) in direction to Macao (China) in the 17th Century. After the Dutch were able to defeat the Portuguese in Malacca, some of the Aristocracy fled to Makassar - the main Christian center of Indonesia, until today - and re-established there. A certain Portuguese woman was the wife of the rich Sultan of Makassar and she dicided to send all remaining Portuguese treasures of Malacca and other richnesses to Macao - but a violent storm sunk that ship, it is believed its' cargo was extrenely valuable.

Read History: once the Portuguese were under Spanish domination 1580-1640 after the death of Portuguese King in a battle in North of Africa, 60% of Portuguese vessels were lost due to bad maintenance and fights with Spain's enemies, Netherlands and England - as the Portuguese were forced to be incporporated in Spanish armada. Due to that fact, during those 60 years, most of the Portuguese Empire in Asia was lost, and once Portuguese came back in 1640, after defeating the Spanish rule, it was too late to re-conquer all that was lost.

Check Malacca, Makassar, Macao and Goa. Between these routes there are awesome treasures sunk in the seas.

Cheers.

[email protected]

6. ank 10/06/2011

hello!

we are group of treasure hunters, and finally found resource to get flor de la mar, if anyone would like to help us in this challenge contact at [email protected]

7. dinda 01/06/2011

hi jose, where did you find all that facts about flor del mar? what's the name of the text? was that Albuquerque's log book or sumthin? i'm just curious

muito obrigado

8. Jose Moreira 17/05/2011

I am Portuguese. I live in Malacca. I have read the original description written in Portuguese by Albuquerque. In fact I read carefully all reports by Marx, and the Indonesian guy and even one British which came to Malacca in the year 2000 to say he nows where the shipwreck is. Well... No one found it. Albuquerque was quite detailed and even signalized the site in a map. There is definitely something. In january 1512 Flor de la Mar got stuck near the beach, then the locals got most of it, and that explains why the kingdom of Aceh got so rich in the years that followed - leading to a successful alliance with Johor and the Dutch in defeating Portuguese Malacca 130 years later, in 1641. Regardless of the fact natives really got hands on most of the treasures, there is a question: where are the remains of the ship itself, if any left ? Gold is heavy, must be underneath the heaviest parts of the shipwreck...

9. DAHLAN 13/04/2011

I got site of wrecks with blue n white porcelain, but don't know what to do with it. got some pieces of porcelain off from the wreck.I'M SERIOUS.Need advice.My e-mail address [email protected]

10. Patrick 08/02/2011

Here is a quote from the eyewitness account.

The permission granted, I left with the Captain General on the twentieth of January aboard the ship Flordimare., and two other ships were with us called Insobrecas " of the King, and a junk from among those we had seízed which he took to Indía to show. And so we set course, sailing in much bad weather, for the twentieth day of December was already late for leaving,. Malacca for India. Patrick

11. Patrick 08/02/2011

Actually the Frol de la mar sank well offshore and sank on January 26th or the wee morning hours of the 27th 1512, I know this because i have an eyewitness account, it gives days traveled from Malacca, distance from shore, and the depth in which she sank, it is also not "Flor do mar" its "Frol de la mar" Albuquerque says so himself.

12. Treasures 16/01/2011

After the conquest of Malacca Albuquerque remained in the city until late 1511, preparing its defenses against any Malay counter attack... In 1512 he sailed for the coast of Malabar. On the voyage, a violent storm arose, Albuquerque's vessel, the Flor do Mar, which carried the treasure he had amassed in his conquests, was wrecked, and he himself barely escaped with his life.... (see http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Afonso_de_Albuquerque)

...The ship and its location has been the cause of controversy, which states that the dispute with Indonesia Malaysia the salvage of the Strait. Robert Marx, an American treasure hunter is said to have spent 20 million dollars in the project to bring to the surface the riches of the wreck. According to his statements: "its the richest vessel ever lost at sea, with its hold loaded with 200 coffers of precious stones, diamonds from the small half-inch size to the size of a man's fist." Today, in Malacca, a replica of Frol de la mar houses the city's Sea Maritime Museum.... (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frol_de_la_mar)

13. Patrick 16/01/2011

The Frol De La mar did not sink at the beach in a muddy bottom and it did not sink in 1511, it sank in January of 1512, i researched this wreck on and off for 9 yrs, i have an Italian eyewitness account "someone who was onboard when it went down" its very revealing? in all probability most of the cargo is gone BUT there would be some remaining because the vessel broke up and im sure spilled contents onto the bottom, i was part of the 1991 salvage team and do know just a little about this wreck, its a really fantastic story of portuguese conquests in south east asia and the stories of the treasure are fantastic? they ferried treasure in small boats to the Frol for 3 days and left costly porcelain just laying around because there was no room for it, a truly incredible story, as with any other treasure hunt its going to be costly and a very speculative venture to bring this saga to an end.
Patrick

14. Treasures 29/11/2010

Hi Eleanor,

In these times of European conquests, the Portuguese fleet of Alfonso de Albuquerque was in the region to impose its supremacy on the kingdom of Malacca... The rest is in the post

Several teams have tried to locate her remains since her wrecking and nowadays, another one is still actively interested to find the wreck, or what it is left of her. Do you want to have a try also ? Cheers

15. eleanor 29/11/2010

hi, i was just wandering what the ship was made from and why she was in the Malacca's and where she sunk?

if you could answer those questions for me that would be great.

thank you
eleanor

16. John Leonard 24/10/2010

Love Treasure Quest! Just the thought of being part of the search, Just an old electrician with dreams.

17. K.Sundara Murthy 15/07/2010

Dear Treasure hunters and funders,pse call me in for any of these hunting especially ships .I did love to assit in anyway for the sucess of the mission.I`m a Malaysian retired from the Royal Malaysian Air Force.

18. Mary Lou 09/07/2010

I would love to go on treasure hunts. I have always been interested in doing this,in the ocean or on land. Maybe someday I will discover lost treasure!

19. King Tim The Great Claybrooks 03/05/2010

FLOR DE LA MAR is really a waste of time it says that it was on a beach and sank to the muddy bottom. Come on people them and the locals got all the treasure out that day or the next days after the wreck. And they just fabricated this story to cover up their greed from the king although the hurricane or typhoon probably did happen. But I got a idea on Cocos Island and the treasures of Lima I had a revelation of sorts. It says we buried in the red sand. I am not the smartest person in the world but I don't think Cocos island has red earth or sand. So my theory is that it was a different island that was being referred to. I think people use the conception of Cocos island because it the largest known island a shorter distance in the pacific from Costa Rica. I think we are all focused on the wrong island. Although undoubtedly there are other treasures buried there. But my overall theory is you find a island in the pacific that has red earth or sand as described then you will find the treasure of Lima.

20. Goutham 26/04/2010

I need to collect more data regarding this wreck...
Since this ship was wreck a 500 years ago, definitely its exact location will be changed to some-where else...
I gonna figure-out what changes happen to the earth past 500 years. If we are able to find the exact or approximate location there will be no difficult for us to search in muddy water...
I will love to help you if you are going to make crew to for searching this lost ship...
In from India. You can contact me using this email address...
rapol.goutham at gmail . com

21. kels & kat 09/12/2009

this stuff is so kool i love it

22. bilal (link) 14/11/2009

they did find but captain dont want to

23. Panioty 09/09/2009

Lets Assume - you are the sole survivor of the fateful ship.

-Would you point people in the direction of the vessel ?
-You will try to get everyone to search in some other place /country / locality..

This definitely wreck is in someplace else or would be found by now .. we have the technology and means to do it for the past 50 years.

If someone is serious to find it I think you would need my help.
(panioty at rediffmail com)

24. Radhika Ranjith 10/06/2009

Fascinating...wish i could be there too

25. ROCCO T MASTANTONIO JR (link) 01/05/2009

TO ROBERT F MARX OR ANY TREASURE HUNTER LOOKING FOR THE FLOR DO MAR. I AM A 20 YEAR MACHINTS,WITH A GOOD IDEA TO SALVAGE IN THE FAST CURRENT,LOW VISSIBLITY,AND MUDDY BOTTOM.SQUARE 1/2 PLATE STEEL BOX 80 FOOT SQUARE BY 80 FOOT LONG.4 EYELETS ON ALL FOR CORNERS.ATTACHED BY CABLES TO A CENTRAL POINT,HOISTED FOR SHIP OR BARGE WITH A CRANE.ON ALL FORE SIDES OF SQUARE.ATTACH SPEACIAL LEVELS TO KEEP IT LEVEL,LOWER MY STEEL BOX OVER TEST SITE,IN MUD AND SAND.AIR LIFT CONTENTS INTO YOUR CATCH BOXES.AIRLIFT LEVEL TO A DEPTH OF 65 FEET TO 70 FEET,KEEPING STEEL BOX STRIGHT AND LEVEL.AS CONTENTS OF MUD,SAND,ROCK,ETC ARE AIRLIFTED METAL BOX DECENDS AND SAND AND ROCK AND MUD ARE KEEPED OUT.IF MY IDEA SOUNDS CRAZY CONTACT ME.I LIVE IN MIAMI FLORIDA,IAM 47 YEARS OLD.I WILL HELP YOU RECOVER THIS SHIPWREAK IF GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY THANKS FOR LISTENING TO ME.THIS IS MY DREAM SHIP AND THE ONLY ONE I AM INTERESTED IN SLAVAGEING IN THE WORLD. WRITE ME IF YOU THINK MY IDEA HAS MERIT. ROCCO T MASTANTONIO JR 6882 SW 148TH AVE.MIAMI FLORIDA,33193 PS IAM HONEST AND LOYAL AND A CHRISTAN.GODS LUCK TO US ALL.

26. Marlon Padayachee 29/04/2009

i wanna be part of that team

27. Prashanth 03/04/2009

Love to be the part of the discovery

28. Clayton Van March 24/02/2009

This is interesting. It would be fantastic if they did find the wreck, but I doubt the riches would be as shiny as before. Hehe.

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