In 1594, Portugal’s 1,200-ton ship “Las Cinque Chagas” sailed for Lisbon, Portugal, from Goa, India, with a cargo of 3,500,000 Portuguese cruzados with 22 treasure chests filled with diamonds, rubies, and pearls. This was a cargo estimated to be worth well over $1 billion today. According to Gizmodo’s report, the ship measured 150 feet long and 45 feet wide, which was a gargantuan size for its time, carrying more than 1000 people on board. As it was on its last leg of its journey just 850 km off the coast of Portugal in the Azorean waters, it was attacked by English pirates. The waters off the Azores’ coast were always a favorite amongst pirates throughout the 15th to 19th centuries due to its relevance in transatlantic crossing. The islands in the Atlantic were the first discoveries by Europeans. Great wealth was accumulated in these little islands and was often used as a resting stop after long Atlantic journeys. Pirates would capitalize on the vulnerable waters, with the wealth equivalent to a small country’s GDP to be gained if they could raid the passing cargo ships. After two full days of battling against the 3 English ships, the Portuguese ship caught fire, which caused it to sink just off the Azores’ coast. The ship sinking was not the first for the Portuguese empire; however, the loss to the public purse only aided in the Portuguese empire’s decline. This is considered one of the most valuable shipwrecks in the Atlantic and is estimated to be at 2500 feet below sea level. Maybe one day it will wash up to Portugal’s shore, or the country where the wealth came from initially, India.
Another exciting battle off the coast of the Azores was with the “Madre de Deus“ (Mother of God) Portuguese ship, renowned for her fabulous cargo, which stoked the English appetite for trade with the Far East was then a Portuguese monopoly. As the ship was sailing past the northern part of the Azores off the coast of Corvo and Flores, an English pirate ship was waiting for a Spanish cargo ship returning from the new world to rob. The sailors saw the Portuguese flag, and a treaty had been in place with Portugal and England. However, they attacked anyway. They ended up taking control of the ship, bringing it back to the Port in England in Portsmouth. At this time, England was not a maritime power in the East. The vast wealth and items onboard the ship shocked the English merchants and royals. The amount of wealth in the East and exotic spices was not common knowledge in England and began international expansion. Among these riches were chests filled with jewels and pearls, gold and silver coins, ambergris, rolls of the highest-quality cloth, fine tapestries, 425 tons of pepper, 45 tons of cloves, 35 tons of cinnamon, 3 tons of mace, and 3 of nutmeg, 2.5 tons of benjamin (a highly aromatic balsamic resin used for perfumes and medicines), 25 tons of cochineal and 15 tons of ebony. When the ship docked in port, there was a lot of looting and chaos for two days, until the ship captain restored order. As this was a giant cargo ship to dock in the port, everyone observed this monster-size ship. An inventory was taken of the goods on board with the report produced mentioning that Queen Elizabeth I is quoted as saying, “Gods great favor towards our nation, who by putting this purchase into our hands hath manifestly discovered those secret trades & Indian riches, which hitherto lay strangely hidden, and cunningly concealed from us.”