September 23, 1641: Your Dreams May Come True! (The Treasure of the Merchant Royal)

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A Brief History

On September 23, 1641, off the coast of Cornwall, England, a British merchant ship named the Merchant Royal sank with her cargo of Spanish treasure.  She has not yet been found, and your treasure possibly awaits you somewhere at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean, southwest of England.

Digging Deeper

If lost treasure interests you, then pay attention! 

The Merchant Royal, despite being leaky and somewhat weary after long travels, had been contracted to transport gold and silver from Cadiz, Spain, to Antwerp in modern-day Belgium (which at that time was part of the Spanish Netherlands), to pay the Spanish garrison that was stationed there.  On the way to Antwerp, the pumps that had been controlling the leaks broke down, and the ship began to sink.  The captain and 40 men of the crew of 58 were rescued by another British ship, the Dover Merchant.  No reports of saving any part of the treasure were ever made or implied.  The stunningly large treasure included 100,000 pounds of gold (!), 400 silver bars and almost 500,000 coins (“pieces of eight” and the like).  In today’s dollars, the treasure is worth somewhat over a billion dollars.

In 2007 the Odyssey Marine Exploration Company, a treasure-hunting salvage company, began exploring an unidentified ship at first believed to be the Merchant Royal but later deemed to probably be a Spanish vessel.  The operation is known as “The Black Swan Project” and is detailed in the History and Headlines article “10 Spectacular Discoveries of Treasures.”

So for now, the treasure of the Merchant Royal still awaits either you or some other intrepid treasure hunter, safely guarded by the depths of the ocean.  Some people’s dreams of discovering treasure have come true.  Why should yours not?

Question for students (and subscribers): How do you hope to find your treasure?  On the stock market?  With a metal detector in the park?  Let us know how you hope to hit it rich.  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Haughton, Brian.  Ancient Treasures: The Discovery of Lost Hoards, Sunken Ships, Buried Vaults, and Other Long-Forgotten Artifacts.  New Page Books, 2013.

Horner, Dave.  Shipwreck: A Saga of Sea Tragedy and Sunken Treasure.  Sheridan House, 1999.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.