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


The northernmost of the 1733 ships is the wreck of the scout ship Populo. Also called El Pinque (The Pink - a type of small dispatch vessel), the vessel's official name was Nuestra SeƱora del Populo. She belonged to the king and probably was only 150 to 250 tons capacity and lightly armed with 8 to 12 cannons. Populo carried no registered treasure, but rather was loaded with cochineal, indigo, hides, brazilwood, boxes of gifts, citrus, and tobacco. Situated at the head of the fleet near Capitana, hurricane winds drove the little pink far to the north, away from the rest of the ships. She wrecked in 30 feet of water in what is today Biscayne National Park. Based on the ship's position, the crew appears to have deployed at least one of her anchors, which prevented the ship grounding in shallow water. As the eye of the storm passed, the winds changed direction, causing Populo to swing on her anchor. She struck a coral reef and bilged, dropping ballast. She got off the reef and swung further until she struck another patch of coral and sank in a sand pocket, her poopdeck awash. Her crew and passengers were picked up by a boat from the fleet's aviso (advice or dispatch vessel), which was left damaged but floating nearby, and taken to the nearest land. The people shortly were rescued by the galleon El Africa, one of the lucky 1733 ships to survive the storm, and taken to Spain. Populo 's cargo and personal possessions were lost to the sea.

Briefly salvaged by weekend treasure hunters in the 1960s, Populo today is under the jurisdiction of Biscayne National Park and park personnel monitor the site to prevent vandalism and unauthorized exploration. The shipwreck is nestled in a white sand pocket surrounded by coral reef and grasses. Sea life includes lobsters, groupers, rock hinds, drums, blue runners, trumpetfish, angelfish, brittle stars, arrow crabs, anemones, porkfish, butterflyfish, grunts, tangs, blennies, gobies, French angels, banded coral shrimp, spotted morays, damsels, wrasses, hogfish, snappers, parrotfish, sergeant majors, hermit crabs, high hats, pufferfish, porcupinefish, cleaner shrimp, fire coral, star coral, brain coral, sheet coral, sea urchins, sea fans, sea whips, and sponges.

Location: Populo is situated in Biscayne National Park.

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