The story of the 1715 Treasure Fleet is a story that
involves a fleet of ships carrying much treasure. The ship set sail from Havana
on July 24, 1715. The total fleet included twelve ships and all but one of them
was lost at sea. On July 29, the fleet was met with terrible storms and
hurricanes that took the lives of over seven hundred people.
Around 1715 was a time when Spain was claiming vast
quantities of the wealth of the New World. There were cargo ships travelling
back and forth from Spain to Havana in quest of more gold and silver. Havana was
a place where ships from ports throughout the region would gather. It was a time
shortly after the War of the Spanish Succession and while privacy was continuing
to grow, there were also British privateers still remaining from the war. To
secure the wealth they were obtaining, there was a complete stop put upon the
fleet ships that were responsible for going to collect the wealth. But there was
so much treasure that it eventually needed to be collected. The king of Spain
also needed funds to support the war and the fleet needed to venture out quickly
as hurricane season was fast approaching.
A major delay occurred when ships from Cartagena
arrived in Havana before the Vera Cruz fleet arrived. The Vera Cruz fleet was
delayed for many reasons. The Vera Cruz ships were waiting on a slow train that
was delivering the treasure to them. There was also a shipment of porcelain,
ivory, and silk being delivered to the Vera Cruz and the train carrying that
shipment was also very slow. King Phillip further complicated matters when he
ordered that a special shipment of specific jewels being given to the Duchesse
of Parma be included with the fleet’s shipment.
Although July 24 marked the middle of the hurricane
season, the fleet left for Havana. For the first little while the crew was met
with only good weather. The water and the wind were both very calm. On the
morning of the 29th, the wind was non-existent, dying off completely. The water
was almost eerily calm. The alert captain that was on board as part of the fleet
had gone slightly east of the other ships to be able to see what was ahead. He
was very suspicious of the very calm weather, having been in these kinds of
situations before and sensing what was to come.
It was not long before his suspicions were
confirmed and the crew found themselves in a tropical storm that turned very
quickly into a ferocious hurricane. There was nothing the crew could do except
try to stay alive. A few managed to survive the storm and be swept up onto the
beaches along with the many pieces of their ships. One thing that did not wash
up on shore with them was the many pounds of silver and pieces of eight that
they had been bringing back from Havana. To this day, the area surrounding
Havana is still scoured by treasure hunters in hope that they may recover some
of the lost treasure of the 1715 Treasure Fleet.