The Wreck of the San Jose
Panama – 1631
An assortment of treasure recovered from the San Jose, the “Almiranta” of the South Seas Armada, consisting of pieces of eight, gold jewelry, document seals, musket balls and pottery.
The story of this map begins in 1680. That year Captain Bartholomew Sharpe, an English privateer, was attaching Spanish shipping off the west coast of South America. On board one of the ships he found “A Great Atlas of the South Seas of America”.
During colonial times navigators aboard Spanish ships would make maps of the coastlines in the areas they sailed. A collection of these maps were known as a “Derrotero” or Atlas in modern terms.
This document was considered to be of such great importance that the King of England commissioned William Hack to create a version in English. Today it is known as the “Hack Atlas”.
This particular atlas details the pacific coast of South America from Mexico to Chile with references to ports, anchorages, fresh water sources, sailing instructions and even a few shipwrecks such as is shown on this particular map.
At the top left corner is a reference that allowed modern day explorers to locate the wreckage of this richly laden Spanish galleon. The passages reads;
“On this should was lost the Admiral of the King of Spain in 1631 – with aboundance of riches.”
This is a clear refernce to one of the galleons of the South Seas Armada which transported all of the gold and silver from the mines and mints of South America up to Panama. Once there the treasure was taken by mule train across Panama to the Atlantic side where ships picked up the treasure and took it back to Spain.
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