1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet
On July 31, 1715, a savage hurricane swept across the Bahamas Channel from the northeast, catching in its path the Spanish treasure fleet on its way from Havana to Spain. It was a disaster to the fleet and to the King of Spain Phillip V. His fortunes rose and fell with the arrival or loss of the fleet. He often faced bankruptcy. This fleet was very important because it was the first fleet leaving the new world in four years. It carried an accumulation of gold and silver coins and bullion from the New World mints.
To the fleet, it was chaos. There were twelve vessels, five of these from General Ubilla's Nueva Espana fleet, six of General Echeverz Galcones fleet and a French vessel. The French vessel accompanied the fleet back to Spain for protection and was the only one that survived. The rest of the fleet disintegrated on the jagged coral reefs of Florida between Fort Pierce and Sebastian Inlet.
Over seven hundred lives were lost, including General Ubilla, and $14 million in gold and silver was scattered over the beaches and reefs a few hundred yards offshore. There was a salvage effort by the Spanish, but when their work was done, a great quantity of treasure remained undiscovered. One of the survivors, Captain Sebastian Mendez, the pilot of Nuestra Senora del Carmen, spoke of "a hurricane that came on from the east-northeast so strongly that although he has sailed the seas for many years and suffered through many tempests he has never seen another like it for violence, and his ship and all the rest were lost. Today treasure still continues to be found from these wreck sites off the Florida Coast.