16th century Spanish shipwrecks found off Cape Canaveral filled with stolen French treasure

Posted on Aug 22, 2016


  • Found cannons, monument, anchors, stone grinding wheel and ammo
  • Some items thought to have been from sunken ships of Jean Ribault
  • Items were actually stolen by the Spanish whose ships sank in a storm
  • Shipwrecks scatter field of debris measures about 4 miles long

In 1565, a vicious storm sank three Spanish ships bound for Havana, Cuba, banishing their stolen treasures to the bottom of the sea.

Centuries later, marine archaeologists have stumbled across the shipwreck remains off the coast of Cape Canaveral, nestled among debris from failed space launches.

Cannons, anchors and symbols of the fleur-de-lis and a French coat of arms are among the Spanish booty found in the depths that originally belonged to early French settlers.

Marine archaeologists have stumbled across the shipwreck remains off the coast of Cape Canaveral. Cannons, anchors and symbols of the fleur-de-lis and a French coat of arms are among the Spanish booty found in the depths that was once owned by early French settlers

WHAT DID THE DIVERS FIND? 

Global Marine Exploration (GME) stumbled across the shipwreck remains off the coast of Cape Canaveral.

This discovery includes 22 cannons, a marble monument, anchors, a stone grinding wheel and scattered ballast and ammunition.

Three bronze ornate cannons were among the 22, two of which measure 10 feet long and one 7 feet and the monument.

The monument appears to be hand carved marble and could have possibly been connected to the first French attempts at new world colonization, the Protestant Huguenots and the founding of Spanish Florida at St. Augustine. 

It is shaped like the coat of arms on top of a pillar and is about 3 feet high and 2 feet wide, ‘exactly the way it is described in the original records,’ Robert Prichett, GME CEO, told LiveScience.

Global Marine Exploration (GME) discovery includes 22 cannons, a marble monument, anchors, a stone grinding wheel and scattered ballast and ammunition.

However, the team reveals that the artifacts were uncovered in May, but due to security reasons, they did not share the findings to the public .

What GME is most excited about are three bronze ornate cannons, two of which measure 10 feet long and one 7 feet and the monument.

The monument appears to be hand carved marble and could have possibly been connected to the first French attempts at new world colonization, the Protestant Huguenots and the founding of Spanish Florida at St. Augustine. 

It is shaped like the coat of arms on top of a pillar and is about 3 feet high and 2 feet wide, ‘exactly the way it is described in the original records,’ Robert Prichett, GME CEO, told Tom Metcalfe with  LiveScience.

This structure is adorned with with fleur-de-lis symbols, which is a symbol used in heraldry by French royalty, and also engraved in the marble is the crown of the king of France.

All of these artifacts made the 1562 journey to the New World with the French navigator and colonialist Jean Ribault, who was sent to assist a colony in Florida.

Global Marine Exploration (GME) discovery includes 22 cannons, a marble monument, anchors, a stone grinding wheel and scattered ballast and ammunition. What GME is most excited about are three bronze ornate cannons (pictured), two of which measure 10 feet long and one 7 feet and the monument

Global Marine Exploration (GME) discovered the three sunken Spanish ships off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. The seabed is known as an underwater graveyard for failed rocket launchers, as as it sits near the US Air Force base at Cape Canaveral and Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center

It was first believed these items were from Ribault’s two ‘lost ships’ that were destroyed in 1565 by a storm, Prichett told LiveScience.

However, after reviewing records, Prichett and his team discovered that the bronze cannons and marble monument were not aboard Ribault’s ships, but were station at an early French Huguenot colony in Fort Caroline, which is now Jacksonville, Florida.

After digging even further, the team learned the four items were stolen during a Spanish raid in 1565.

Pritchett believes the pieces were headed to Havana, Cuba when the three Spanish ships were met by a storm out at sea that sank the vessels.

The shipwreck scatter field of debris measures about 4 miles long and a half of a mile wide.

And there are also remains of other ships that disappeared under the murky water in the 1800s.

In addition to the bronze cannons and monument, the divers found 19 iron cannons, 12 anchors, a stone grinding wheel and scattered ballast and ammunition from the Spanish ships, explained Pritchett.

It was first believed these items were from Ribault’s two ‘lost ships’ that were destroyed in 1565 by a storm, Prichett told LiveScience. However, records show that the bronze cannons (pictured) and marble monument were installed at an early French Huguenot colon on the St. Johns River deemed, Fort Caroline

 GME had obtain permits from the state of Florida to investigate seven areas off the coast of Cap Canaveral, called an underwater rocket grave, which led them to these ‘priceless treasures’.

The seabed is known as an underwater graveyard for failed rocket launchers, as as it sits near the US Air Force base at Cape Canaveral and Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center.

IS THIS HOW THE SPANISH STOLE THE PIECES FROM THE FRENCH?

The ship of Jean Ribault is wrecked on the coast of Florida

Jean Ribaut, born 1520 and died 1565, was a French naval officer, explorer and colonizer.

As a protestant, Ribaut fled France to England, where he was imprisoned for refusing to help colonize the New World.

After being released from prison, Admiral Coligny gave him seven ships in 1565 to assist the newly founded Huguenot settlement of Fort Caroline on the St. John’s River.

However, the Spanish government had its own claims on Florida and ordered the French colony to be destroyed.

Leading the attack was Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, who captured the colony and Ribaut when a storm scattered Ribaut’s fleet and drove his flagship ashore.

Menéndez, who earlier had massacred the French prisoners at Fort Caroline, ordered Ribaut and his surviving crew members executed as Protestant heretics.

This story may be how the Spanish obtained the pieces from the French settlers. 

The monument (pictured) appears to be hand carved marble and could have possibly been connected to the first French attempts at new world colonization The marble is decorated with fleur-de-lis symbols, which is a stylized flower used in heraldry by French royalty, and the crown of the king of France

The team found hundreds of US Air Force rockets on the seafloor, and shirmp boats, airplane engines and airplanes as well.

The shipwrecks sit in the shallow area of the sea, as Pritchett said it is only about 15 to 25 feet deep and the sand is constantly shifting.

‘So the cannons could be covered by 3 feet of sand, or they could be covered by 8 feet of sand — it’s different every time the wind blows,’ he said.

The cannons and monument are still on the seabed, until Florida officials approve GME’s permits to pull the to the surface.

The team learned that the four pieces were stolen by the Spanish in 1565, ‘so [the monument] would not be on a French ship if it was removed by the Spanish. Etchings on one of the bronze cannons suggests it was cast in the 1540s, a time when King Henry of France ruled. The cannons and monument are still on the seabed, until Florida officials approve GME’s permits to pull the to the surface

 

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