Shipwrecks of Florida
Shipwrecks can be found all along Florida's coastline. Ships sailing in the waters around Florida faced dangers such as shallow water, sandbars, coral reefs, strong water currents and hurricanes. The ships sailing the trade routes along Florida's coast carried a wide variety of cargo and goods, making the shipwrecks found today time capsules documenting the history of commerce, transport and local history over the centuries.
"Urca de Lima"
The original name of the "Urca de Lima" was the "Santisima Trinidad," owned by Don Miguel de Lima of Spain. The "Urca de Lima" was one of a convoy of 11 ships collecting goods such as vanilla, uncured cowhides, sassafras, chocolate and other products that could be sold in Europe for a high price in the summer of 1715. The ships left Havana, Cuba to return to Spain, but a hurricane pushed them into the shallow water off the coast of what is now Fort Pierce. The survivors of the shipwreck used the cargo salvaged from the ship until help arrived 31 days later. To hide the ship's position from English freebooters, it was burned to the waterline.
The "Lofthus" was a merchant ship launched into service on October 5, 1868. On the sides of the ship, the crew had painted gun ports hoping to discourage Javanese and Sumatran pirates from attacking it as it sailed the ocean. Loaded with lumber, the "Lofthus" was shipwrecked on February 4, 1898 on the beach off of present-day Manalapan just north of the Boynton Inlet. The ship was broken apart by high waves pounding against it as it sat stranded on the sand. It was stripped of almost everything useable and sold for $1,000, including the 800,000 feet of lumber that was in the hold.
The "Henrietta Marie" was a small ship built in France, most likely in the late 1690s. Around 1697, the ship was put into service as a slaving ship, trading goods brought from London to West Africa for human cargo, which was sold as slaves in the West Indies. In 1699, on the second voyage, pig iron and trade goods were traded for Igbo captives. The ship then sailed to Jamaica, where the captives were sold into slavery. As the "Henrietta Marie" began her return voyage to London, she was most likely shipwrecked on New Ground Reef off the Florida Keys because of a hurricane.
The Tierra Firme Fleet
In 1622, two fleets--the New Spain fleet and the Tierra Firme fleet--left Spain to voyage to several ports in South America to collect gold and silver from Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador and Columbia. The fleets had large armed galleons that would carry the gold and silver, while the small merchant ships would carry agricultural goods. The two fleets were supposed to meet in Havana, Cuba in March of 1622 for the return voyage to Spain. The ships met in Havana in August, later than planned due to weather and other problems that delayed them. The New Spain fleet left for Spain, while the Tierra Firme fleet didn't set sail until September 4, 1622 when a hurricane hit the fleet as they sailed near the Florida Keys. The storm sunk the treasure ship "Nuestra Senora de Atocha," the merchant ship "Nuestra Senora de la Consolacion" and two others, the "Santa Margarita" and "Nuestra Senora del Rosario." The debris field stretches from the Dry Tortugas to the Marquesas Keys.