1733 Spanish Galleon Trail: Explore the Spanish Plate Fleet disaster of 1733.


The armed galleon Nuestra SeƱora de Balvaneda, called El Infante (the Prince), was built in Genoa in 1724 and was purchased by King Philip V of Spain. With an estimated capacity of 400 tons, Infante was one of the largest ships in the 1733 fleet and carried up to 60 cannons. Reinforced with sacrificial planking to forestall voracious ship worms that attacked all wooden ships in the tropics, she sometimes is referred to as the refuerzo in documents. Don Domingo de Lanz was her captain for the voyage. At Vera Cruz Infante loaded brazilwood, cochineal, Guadelajara ware, Chinese porcelain, leather hides, indigo, vanilla, and citrus, as well as 186 boxes of silver coins for the King. Sailing in the vanguard of the fleet when the hurricane struck, storm winds pushed the galleon on her beam-ends, requiring her sailors to cut away the masts and, eventually, the bowsprit. The big ship grounded on the outer reef and pounded on the coral until she flooded to her decks. The next day her people could see Capitana grounded nearby, and four additional ships wrecked in the vicinity. Rafts were made of her upperworks and the people taken to shore. Salvage of treasure and other goods began almost immediately and nearly all of the registered silver and much of the general cargo was saved.

Visiting the site of Infante today is a spectacular visual experience. The wreck lies in 20 feet of clear water on the outer reef, surrounded by coral and sea life. The large ballast mound is scattered in a wide circular pattern. Timbers of the lower hull are exposed, including a section of the keelson, stringers, frames, futtocks and hull planking. Marine life encountered include corals, seafans, tangs, hogfish, nurse sharks, parrotfish, damselfish, wrasses, eels, French angels, Queen angels, porkfish, and a myriad of small tropical fish species. Infante is probably one of the most frequently visited of the 1733 wrecks, due to its location on the reef in clear water and the dramatic visual impact of the site.

Location: 24° 56.556'N 80° 28.531'W

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