La Santa Margarita & Rosario ship History
Our Krewe's namesake, La Santa Margarita, was a heavily armed galleon of the Spanish Tierra Firme treasure fleet of 1622. Her sister ships include the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, the Nuestra Senora Del Rosario and the Consolation. These guardian ships and the cargo vessels they protected made up the Tierra Firme treasure fleet of 1622, in total, 28 ships.
These yearly Spanish treasure fleets were used to transport the wealth of the New World from South America to Spain. Along with the gold, silver and precious jewels the cargo ships transported more usual items like copper, tobacco and indigo. Besides what was on the official ship manifests, passengers would frequently smuggle large quantities of treasure to avoid paying the Spanish government's 20% tax.
After much delay, the Tierre Firme fleet left Havana on September 4th, 1622, heavy with its rich cargo. Two days later, the fleet was hit by a hurricane in the area of the Florida Keys, known by the Spanish as Matecumbe. By the morning of the 6th of September, eight vessels, including the Atocha, Rosario, Consolation and Santa Margarita were lost.
The remaining ships in the flotilla managed to make their way back to Havana. Salvage operations continued for several years, but deep water made the recovery difficult and additional hurricanes scattered the wreckage over a large area between the Dry Tortugas and the Marquesas Keys. Only a small portion of the lost treasure was recovered.
At the time, the Spanish Crown was at war with Britain in the 30 years war. The money from the Tierra Firme treasure fleet was desperately needed to continue the financing of the war against Britain. The Spanish government was financially devastated by the loss of this and several other treasure fleets. These losses and the constant attacks by the Dutch, British and French led to the eventual decline of the vast Spanish empire.
Santa Margarita and Atocha Shipwrecks Found
In 1980 a research team led by Mel Fisher found a large portion of the Santa Margarita along with $25 million in coins and jewelry. Five years later, the team also discovered a large section fo the Atocha's hull, with a much larger bounty of artifacts worth about $400 million. Artifacts from both ships are on display at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West, FL. Untold amounts of treasure still lie at the bottom of the sea buried beneath the sand from the doomed ships of the 1622 treasure fleet. Source
Santa Margarita Shipwreck Treasure Hunting Continues