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Giant anchor from a shipwreck could lead to the biggest bounty in history.

Giant Anchor Belonging To “El Dorado Of The Seas” Points To A Legendary £1bn Hoard

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An English fishing vessel called the ‘Spirited Lady' netted the catch of a lifetime when it hauled up a massive anchor off the coast of Land’s End, Cornwall in England, believed to be from the most valuable British shipwreck in history, which holds ancient treasures worth an expected £1bn.

‘The Merchant Royal’ was a 17th-century English galleon that traded huge quantities of gold and silver with Spanish colonies between AD 1637 and 1640. The Telegraph reported in 2007: "Salvage companies have spent years looking for the wreck of Merchant Royal, an English ship known as the "El Dorado of the seas", which sank in bad weather near the Isles of Scilly in 1641 as it was returning to Dartmouth laden with treasure from Mexico.

According to a report in Cornwall Live she was carrying a crew of 80 seamen under the command of Capt. John Limbrey when almost 400 years-ago she sank about 20 miles south of Land’s End. It is known that the ship’s cargo contained “100,000 pounds of gold, 400 bars of Mexican silver and nearly 500,000 pieces of eight and other coins - making it one of the most valuable wrecks of all time.”

An English Merchant Ship in a Mediterranean Harbour by Willem van de Velde the Younger (Public Domain)

An English Merchant Ship in a Mediterranean Harbour by Willem van de Velde the Younger (Public Domain)

Now, a scuba-diver has told reporters that he “fears” the discovery of the anchor might instigate a “dangerous gold rush” according to an article in iNews. Speaking of the real life threat to what is without question a national treasure, Mark Milburn of Atlantic Scuba confirmed the anchor was “an admiralty patterned long shank anchor” which is the right type for the Merchant Royal.

Concerns, Care and Rights Over The Treasure

Legally, whomever finds and recovers the treasure might still end up keeping it, though a license will be required first. The site of the wreck is located within British waters and the find will be reported to the ‘Receiver of Wreck’, the UK’s official body administering salvage rights in the UK, but that is if anything is left!

Mr Milburn said “Everyone will be after it, won’t they?” and his chief concern is that because the ship sinking is "a well-known legend” people know that it’s still out there in deep water and he fears unruly treasure hunters will now find and raid the ship. But he also said the specific location “was so treacherous that explorers would be risking their lives by attempting to reach it” and that treasure hunters would require specialist recovery equipment and expertise to dive the site which is estimated at being around 300ft.”

Ship In Storm by Robert Salmon. (Public Domain)

Ship In Storm by Robert Salmon. (Public Domain)

This type of dive requires a lot of specialist equipment and a team of experienced technical divers and Mr Milburn said “I’ll be going out there to have a look, but we’ve got to wait for the right conditions and because the conditions are so treacherous, the window is very narrow. The site is exposed and we need the tide to be right and a weekend with no wind. Because of the depth, you don’t get long to look for it.”

While treasure recovery companies and the UK government focus on a potential 1.2 billion windfall, at this moment in time the only treasure that has been found is the 400-year-old anchor. To fight the processes of aging Mr Milburn is aiming to store it in freshwater so that he can make a closer study of it to determine its exact age. And right now, a friend’s desalinated quarry seems like the best option where it will be sunk and studied underwater.

Top image: Giant anchor from a shipwreck could lead to the biggest bounty in history.      Source: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live (Fair Use)

By Ashley Cowie



100K lbs of gold would be $2.06B USD (1.56B GBP), so quite a haul not even including the silver and coinage.

ashley cowie's picture


Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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