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Smuggled Silver & Iron Cannons

The Urca de Lima, a Dutch-built cargo ship, earned its place in the Spanish Treasure Fleet of 1715

“The sun disappeared and the wind increased in velocity coming from the east and east northeast. The seas became very giant in size, the wind continued blowing us toward shore, pushing us into shallow water. It soon happened that we were unable to use any sail at all, making bare our yards, mostly due to the wind carrying away our sails and our rigging, and we were at the mercy of the wind
and water.”

Those words were penned by a Spanish merchant who survived the wreck of the 1715 Treasure Fleet. His name was Miguel de Lima y Melo, and he was standing on the deck of a ship that he owned — and that was named for him — when he observed those ominous conditions.

That vessel, the Urca de Lima, was one of the 11 vessels of the treasure fleet to be shipwrecked. But although the Urca de Lima was lost in 1715, it was not lost forever.

The location of the Urca de Lima was rediscovered in the 1920s, when the remains of the ship were found off the coast of Fort Pierce. For decades thereafter, the site was explored by treasure hunters. Today, its archaeological value is recognized, and it is studied by experts who are focused on knowledge rather than silver — although when it comes to exploring a treasure ship, knowledge and silver can sometimes coincide.