There are lots of holidays and unusual celebrations across the world – and one of them has now come sailing to our shores. The 19th September marks International Talk Like a Pirate Day and, on this occasion, some raise money for charity by adopting pirate lingo and dressing up in related clothing.
We should point out this celebration is meant to commemorate the romanticised version of pirates. Actual plundering, theft, and violence on the day is discouraged.
However, the occasion got us thinking about all the treasures still sitting at the bottom of the ocean waiting to be discovered by explorers. Although the chances of finding these are low, could you recover some gold doubloons?
Although estimations vary, it’s believed there are around three million undiscovered shipwrecks throughout the world’s oceans. Some will have immense historical value but not much in terms of material. Others will have cargo worth millions of pounds. Here are four wrecks which, if you discovered them, could set you up for life:
Las Cinco Chagas was a Portuguese vessel which sank near Portugal in 1594. Ambushed by British privateers, she was returning from a voyage to India reportedly laden with precious stones, such as diamonds, pearls, and rubies.
It’s estimated the value of this treasure is worth more than half a billion pounds.
The Flor de la Mar was another Portuguese vessel with a fine sailing history. Visiting ports across the Indian Ocean for almost ten years, it eventually came to a point where the ship needed extensive repairs. However, despite being deemed unsafe at the time, the ship was sent to provide support during a military campaign.
It appears the repair work was justified as the Flor de la Mar sunk off Sumatra during a storm in 1511. Reportedly, at the time, the ship was carrying more than £2bn worth of treasure.
The Santa Maria was part of a fleet of ships which sailed with Christopher Columbus to the new world. Finishing the journey, the Santa Maria then sailed in search of treasure – hunting for goods such as gold and spices to bring home.
On Christmas Eve 1492, it’s alleged the cabin boy was put in charge of steering the vessel. Presumably, the crew was busy celebrating the occasion. It seems the boy was not a skilled helmsman however as the ship ran aground on Haiti.
The Santa Maria was left abandoned, which means the ship and its cargo could still be waiting to be found.
Now for a vessel which is a bit closer to home. The Merchant Royal sunk near Cornwall in 1641 due to a storm. At the time she was carrying a significant amount of gold, silver, and other treasures. In today’s money, it would be worth around £1bn.
The anchor of the Merchant Royal was discovered in 2019 but no other trace of the ship was discovered. With the search zone narrowed though, it’s potentially only a matter of time before the ship is found.
If you discovered a shipwreck with treasure and other items aboard, the law of ‘finders keepers’ unfortunately does not apply. Under salvage rights, you should at least strive to return the cargo to the rightful owners.
With ships sunk hundreds of years ago though, this usually isn’t possible. Instead, you’ll need to notify whichever government controls those waters. That country will then usually dictate what happens to the treasure. In this situation, you may be entitled to a percentage of the find.
Before you think of just not telling the authorities though, it’s worth noting that any dishonest action could invalidate any claim you may have to the salvage.
The rules may be more favourable though in international waters. If no government or person claims ownership, you may be entitled to take as much gold as you can carry.
Finding an unexpected windfall is often a popular fantasy. Who doesn’t want to stumble across a billion pounds? However, the costs of mounting an expedition and recovering salvage are huge – and tracing the original owner can be very challenging indeed.
It’s time to be realistic. Recovering vast sums of treasure to repay your debts is a possibility but still unlikely. Instead, you could repay your creditors within 24 hours with a debt consolidation loan.
This just leaves you making one affordable payment each month – so it’s a lot less stressful then hunting for sunken riches.
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