The Mystery of Pirate Treasures Lost in the Azores

Santa Maria, Nina and Pinta of Christopher ColumbusIn 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, along 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 a report by Gizmodo, the ship measured 150 feet long and 45 feet wide, which was a gargantuan size, for its time, carrying more than 1000 people onboard. As it was on its last legge 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 coast of the Azores were always a favorite amongst pirates throughout the 15th to 19th century due to its relevance in transatlantic crossing. The islands in the Atlantic were the first discoveries by Europeans where great wealth was accumulated in these little islands and were often used as a resting stop after long Atlantic journeys. Pirates would capitalize on the vulnerable waters, with the wealth equivalent to the GDP of a small country to be gained if they could raid the passing cargo ships. After 2 full days of battling against the 3 English ships, the Portuguese ship ended up catching fire which caused it to sink just off the coast of the Azores. The ship sinking was not the first for the Portuguese empire, however the loss to the public purse only aided in the decline of the Portuguese empire. This is considered one of the most valuable ship wrecks in the Atlantic and has been estimated to be at 2500 feet below sea level. Maybe one day it will wash up to the shore of Portugal, or the country where the wealth came from back originally, India. Compass And A MapAnother interesting 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, which was then a Portuguese monopoly. As the ship was sailing past the northern part of the Azores off the coast of Corvo and Flores there was an English pirate ship waiting for a Spanish cargo ship that was 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 anyways. 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 were not common knowledge in England at the time and began the desire for 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 shipped docked in port, there was a lot of looting and chaos which occured for 2 days, until order was restored by the ships captain. As this was the biggest cargo ship at the time to dock in the port, everyone came to observe 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”. 12772040_538586862989825_5171058875370867295_o

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