Key figureMarquis of Caldereyta
CaptainBernardino de Lugo
Shipwreck zoneMarquesas Keys, Florida
Port of departureHavana (CUB)
CargoRiches, gold bullion, silver ingots , and eastern ceramics
On September 4, 1622, the Tierra Firme fleet made its customary stop in Cartagena de Indias, where the ships were loaded with gold, silver and emeralds and then, after another stopover in Havana, the fleet headed for Spain.
Sailing at the very rear of the fleet was the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, the Almiranta, the rear guard of the fleet, a galleon built in Havana in 1620. She carried 550 tons. The Santa Margarita, a Spanish galleon built in Cadiz in the same year, was also part of the fleet. Her tonnage was smaller and her cargo less valuable than the twenty-five tons of Colombian gold and Peruvian and Mexican silver carried by the Nuestra Señora de Atocha.
Within a few days of sailing, strong hurricane-force winds battered the fleet in the Straits of Florida Keys, sinking eight ships, including the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, with a crew of 265 men.
The crown of Spain quickly attempted to recover part of the remains of the sunken fleet, most of which belonged to the Santa Margarita; however, the galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha could not be located, as she was quite badly damaged when she sank.
All traces of the Atocha were lost and for years the Spaniards returned to try to recover the treasure of the Santa Margarita. As mentioned above, her remains were located. Coins, silver bars, ceramics and Chinese porcelain were extracted. The artifacts were deposited at the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society Museum’s Collection in key West, Florida.