tv Nuestra Senora de Atocha CSPAN June 21, 2015 3:30pm-3:48pm EDT
21 ribbons. then the budget got her in 1988. they retired her in 1988. but the unique thing about it, this was the last of the ships of the class of seven, most of the stuff was on there. it was pretty much the way they left it. it was a time capsule >> all weekend long, american history tv is joining our comcast cable partners to showcase the history of key west florida. to turn -- to learn more about the cities, visit c-span.org/cities tour. we continue now with our look at the history of key west. this is american history tv on c-span3.
>> we are in the mills fisher maritime museum in key west, florida. our museum was founded in 1982 by mr. mel fisher. he was the world's greatest treasure hunter and he went out to look for sunken spanish galleons around here and is quite famous for having discovered the rest -- the wrecks of the center margarita and a spanish galleons that wrecked in 1622 about 25 miles west of key west. back in the colonial time, spain had set up a worldwide trade network and a lot of it sailed right past here following the gulfstream back to spain.
the spanish had colonies in south america and central america and they were doing a lot of mining. they were generating a lot of precious metals, especially silver, from these mines. a whole network was set up of trade fleet sailing from spain to the new world bringing european goods to the colonists in the americas. but then on the return voyage, carrying lots of silver back to spain. in 1622, one of the treasure fleets which had gone to south america in this case, went to colombia and panama. this fleet took europeans to the colonies and it picked up people who wanted to go back to spain
and picked up carbon -- picked up cargoes primarily of silver coins and ingots that had come up from south america. they went to havana and met with some other ships and organized a convoy to return to spain. in early september, 1622, these ships left havana. they knew it was hurricane season but they had to get this treasure back to spain. it was imperative it be delivered as quickly as possible. and one day out from havana, a hurricane struck. when that happened, there were 28 ships in the fleet. when that happened, seven ships were sunk and the other fleet was scattered. some of them made it back to havana, but with the seven ships that sank, there was a massive
loss of life and a massive loss of treasure. it was a real blow to spain and her economy. the loss of the treasure galleon from 1622 was never really forgotten. the spanish searched for many years for these ships. the stories persisted in various documents through time. in the 1960's, a man named mel fisher who was working on the east coast of florida, looking for a shipwreck that had sunk in 1750, he heard about this rack that had gone down somewhere in the florida keys back in 1622. he decided he was going to look for it.
his whole family was involved in this venture, his wife and children and he had a crew as well. they all moved down here to the florida keys. first they began the search in the upper keys because they thought the historic documents pointed to the day up there. but after a year or two of work, they found it was actually somewhere in the lower keys, so they moved their operations to key west and began a search that was almost unbelievable. it took 16 years of searching. they sacrificed so much. it was a huge expense. they had legal battles the entire way. mel and his wife lost their oldest son and daughter-in-law two divers who were killed during the search.
it was a very, very hot far -- hard fought search. but in the cargo hold was found bandwidth that came 30 tons of silver bars, over 100,000 silver coins, and one of the most brilliant peeks into what life was like on board a spanish treasure ship in the early 17th century. one of the great threats to spanish galleons at the time these ships sailed was piracy. everybody wanted to capture a spanish treasure galleon because of you did, you would be set for life. the galleons had it shipped -- had ships sailing with them that were heavily armed. we see here a bronze cannon from the center margarita.
this is a massive. it weighs over two tons. it was designed to protect the ship. there would have been 20 of these on each ship. very well armed. both ships carried soldiers. one had almost 70 soldiers on board. we can see some of the muskets that they carried, the shots that they fired from his muskets . it was virtually impossible to take one of these ships, they were so heavily defended. we know of a couple of instances through almost 250 years where spanish alley ends were captured but otherwise, it just did not happen. here, we have some remarkable examples of the preservation that can be found on these shipwrecks.
these are great seeds and hazelnut shells. we have the anchors and the canons and these big metal pieces, but these little details are also preserved and if we just look for them while we are working underwater and we are able to recover them this tells us a lot about what people were eating on board the ship at that time. we see next to this seeds, a rat bone. so they had to share their food, pretty obviously, with the vermin. we have a fish spear, we have cow bones, pig bones, sheep bones. interestingly, the job from the cal tells us there was a live animal on board. there were no refrigerators back then, so if you wanted fresh meat in the middle of the ocean, the only way you got it was to take a live animal with you and
when you wanted to hear it, you butchered it at sea. these are all of jars and they are made of an earthenware clay. a very basic design and material. there were literally hundreds of these on board the ship. unfortunately, most of them broke but we do have some intact examples. these were used to carry wine to carry oil, to carry perhaps foodstuff. but they are a hallmark of a spanish colonial ship. we see a lot of these and you know it's probably from a spanish ship. we are always looking for little things on the seafloor at here, we were able to find the needle in the haystack. these are literally needles and
bronze straight pins from the shipwrecks. it is remarkable they are there but you had to so close and ache those sorts of repairs -- you had to sew clothes. it was an essential. these steel needles were found as a clump, all fused together in a mass. the club had to be taken apart in the laboratory so each needle was separated from the others and then conserved and stabilized. we are in the treasure gallery of the museum. this is where we display and explain a lot of the rich things from the rack, the jewelry, the bully on -- the bully on -- the
bullion. there's a really wide variety of these things found on the galleon. in this case, we are looking at a gold and emerald cross and a matching golden emerald ring. these pieces were found in the early 1980's. they were both in this little pewter box. we really don't know anything about them other than they were there. we don't know the story. obviously somebody very wealthy carrying these things. we do see the initials on top of the canister -- abl. there was nobody abl on board the ship. so that is more detective work to come on these things. and some of the stories just
keep going on. we have never quite figured them out. what we have in this case are a variety of pieces of jewelry but most spectacularly in the center, we see a belt. this was a gold, perl, diamond and ruby belt. each link with a separate these all joined together. these went around the waist of a very wealthy woman. we do have some portraits from the time that show virtually these same pieces being worn by some of the highest spanish nobility. here, we see princess katarina the daughter of king philip the second, wearing the same sort of thing around her waist and that.
we are looking at a golden chalice here. this is a solid gold cup. this is one of the more interesting pieces drum the ship wreck. this is what we call a poison cup. this gold chalice has a mount on the inside and that was designed to hold one of these stones. these stones are gallstones from a llama board goat or a deer or some sort of animal like that. the belief was at the time, if you mounted one of these stones in your cup and poured your wine into it and someone was out to get you and had poisoned your wine, the stone would absorb the poison and render the wine safe to drink. so this was sort of an antidote to the poison and what's crazy about it is when you start looking at the structure of the
stones, they are mostly hair and healthy of. it actually worked against some arsenic compounds, so ever discovered that was a brave person to try it out. apparently, it did work to some degree. this is the central feature of the ship. here, we see a group of silver ingots recovered from the rack. -- from the wreck. there were over 1000 of these loaded on board, each one averaging around 75 pounds. a very heavy cargo stowed in the lowest part of the ship, used as ballast. what is wonderful about these silver ingots is that they are so richly marked. we see on the surface the shippers marks. we have receivers mark, a person
who was to pick it up in spain when it reminded -- when it arrived. a serial number, telling us when it was made. we have karat marks, dates, assayer's mark, and this response to a written manifest, so we know who these correspond to and who was shipping it and why. just tremendous history about the economics of the time. the artifacts we have from the galleons we have a little bit of everything that was on these ships, from amazing treasures that we know were on there but the dishes, the medical gear weaponry, the tools, all these other things that were required
to keep a community functioning in the middle of the ocean. when people come and see our museum and see our exhibits on the galleon, they see things from the early colonial time that they would not see anywhere else. so many things have survived on this ship that you don't find elsewhere. you get this really vivid look at how people lived on board a ship and what they were doing and their social structure and the economies. it is an amazing look at what life was like in the colonies and at sea in the early 17th century. >> throughout the weekend
american history tv is featuring key west, florida. our city staff traveled there to learn about its history. or not key west and other stops on our tour online. you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. >> each week, american history tv's "reel america" renewed historical films of the 20th century. as california experiences drought and water shortages, we take you back to 1949 and an educational film documenting an abundance of water in california past central valley. the film details irrigation systems that help the state become one of the leading agricultural regions in the world. ♪