Millions in pirates gold and treasures may await discovery along northwest Florida and south Alabama coastlines due to the many shipwrecks there.
Two shipwrecks were recorded as early as 1766 when a French ship wrecked on the coast between Pensacola and Mobile, Alabama. (James Stanier Clarke, Naufragia or Historical Memoirs of Shipwrecks, 2 volumes, London, 1807, Vol II, pp. 190-258).
The second wreck in 1766 was a Spanish ship sailing from the Bay of Campeche, Mexico to Pensacola, and wrecked off the Isle of Rosey, near Pensacola. (Lloyds of London, Case No. 3162 dated 6 May 1766).
On Oct. 22-23, 1766, a major hurricane seriously damaged the Pensacola harbor and five large, richly-laden Spanish galleons, sailing from Vera Cruz, Mexico for Spain, wrecked in the Bay of St. Bernard, which is located west-southwest from Pensacola. (Annual Registry, Year 1767, Volume X, page 52).
While hurricanes and storms were the major causes of shipwrecks along the coast, many scholars and treasure hunters in the Florida panhandle say that Pensacola and Pensacola Bay were summer bases for coastal pirates who utilized the beaches and inland areas to hide their loot.
Pensacola Bay is the site of 30-40 notable wrecks.
On June 11, 1559 13 ships set sail from Veracruz, Mexico under the command of “Don” Tristan de Luna Y Arellano. The ships roughly followed the coastlines of Mexico northward and eastward along the southern United States on their way down the western coast of Florida to Havana, Cuba. Seven of these ships were lost due to a powerful hurricane in the Pensacola Bay area in September of 1559. Records indicate one of the lost vessels was a “galleon” or treasure ship.
In 1632 a hurricane again swept through the Pensacola Bay area and sank five Spanish galleons that were anchored in the bay. Total loss was estimated at $5,000,000.
In the late 1700s, 14 ships of various tonnage were lost in the bay. (Lloyds of London Case No. 1039 dated 9 March 1779).
On April 19, 1781, the Spanish frigate Francesca, loaded with war materials, ran aground on a shoal just inside Pensacola Bay. Most or all of its cargo was lost. (Museo Naval, Madrid, Seccion de Mapas, Grupo VI, Carpeta B, No. 8, entitled Plano de la Bahia de Panzacola , c. 1781).
In 1814, the Spanish ship Intrepido, commanded by Alferez de Navio Marques del Moral, was wrecked on Pensacola Beach during a storm. Many of these beach wrecks have been on interest to beachcombers and treasure hunters for many years.(Fernandez Casareo de Duro, La ArmadaEspanol 1895-1903, Volume IX, page 407).
According to the same source, another ship or falacho, also named Intrepido but commanded by Jose Usel de Guimbarda, was lost in Pensacola Bay in 1823.
On March 25, 1815, the Spanish “goleta” Valdor entered Pensacola Bay carrying a large cargo of goods and rifles. That night a storm caused the ship to become stranded. The ship broke up and all its cargo, including 10 cannons, was lost. (Cesareo Fernandez Duro, Naufragios de la Armada Espanola , Madrid, 1904, page 219).
On Sept. 15, 1821 a hurricane caused several ships of unknown tonnage to sink in Pensacola Bay.
The American Civil War accounts for several wrecks in the Pensacola area and many were sunk in Pensacola Bay. The 100-ton Confederate schooner Aid was captured and taken to the pass at the east end of Santa Rosa Island and sunk on August 23, 1861.
Later wrecks identified near Pensacola include the sailing ship “Bride of Lorne”, which went down on April 8, 1887.
The sailing ship “Eastern Light” wrecked on Caucus Shoal while trying to enter Pensacola Bay on December 23, 1890. The boat ran aground on the beach. Less than two months after the “Eastern Light” grounded, the barkentine
“Hattie G. McFarland”wrecked nearby.
On July 19, 1896, the 620-ton barkentine “Anna Peppina” wrecked while entering the Pensacola Bay pass. These and many more make up the ship graveyard of the Gulf of Mexico. Their treasures await to be found.