Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

1733 San Pedro

The 1733 San Pedro
On July of 1733 Friday the 13th, the Spanish treasure fleet Nueva Espana Flota left Havana on its return trip to Spain. The fleet was carrying precious metals back to Spain after trading in the New World. The San Pedro was among these ships and was captained by Gaspar Lopez Gonzales and owned by Gaspar de Larea Berdugo. It was a 287-ton Dutch built galleon-class Spanish ship that carried 16,000 pesos of Mexican silver and numerous crates of Chinese porcelain. The fleet of ships was under the command of Don Rodrigo de Torres aboard the fleet�s flagship the Capitana, which consisted of three armed galleons and 18 to 21 merchant ships. They were carrying hides, rare spices, precious jewels, silver, and gold, all of which were necessary for the survival of Spain�s economic rule.

Upon leaving Havana port two days later, the fleet entered the Straits of Florida. At around nine o-clock that evening an abrupt wind change signaled signs of torturous weather, that of a hurricane. The wind blew strongly from the north and by the next morning had shifted south. All the vessels were ordered back to Havana but southern winds prevented the fleet from reaching the safety of Havana, which was directly into the wind. A hurricane had entered the Florida Keys and amassed a size of 80 miles wide. By nightfall all but one ship perished. The ships were scattered along a large portion of the upper Florida Keys many swamped or sunk between Key Biscayne and Vaca Key, Florida. The Spanish authorities immediately began its recovery of the Spanish wealth after notifications of the fleets perish. The Spaniards conducted thorough salvage operations and of the fifteen vessels that could not be re-floated and towed back to Havana were burnt to their waterlines to prevent freebooter's salvage of the un-recovered riches that might still have remained. The Spanish salvage workers had done such a thorough salvage that within three months the royal officials in Havana informed the King of Spain that all the registered treasure had been recovered and a substantial amount of unregistered treasure as well, surly the result of contraband. The total loss of the 1733 treasure flotas would have been a severe blow to the Spanish economic system if the treasure had not been recovered. Earlier losses of entire fleets such as the 1715 flota severely hurt the economic welfare of Spain.

Among the ships that perished in the disaster were the Capitana El Rubi, the Almiranta El Galla, Galleon El Infante, El Pinque, San Jose de las Animas, Nuestra Senora del Rosario San Francisco Javier y San Antonio de Padua, Nuestra Senora de Belem y San Antonio de Padua, The Arizona, Chaves, Tres Puentes, Nuestra Senora de los Dolores y Santa Isabel, Nuestra Senora de los Reyes San Fernando y San Francisco de Paula, The San Pedro, San Felipe, Nuestra Senora de las Angustias y San Rafael, Sanchez de Madrid, San Ignacio, San Francisco de Asis, San Fernando, Floridana, and El Aviso.
The 1622, 1715, and 1733 flotas were an integral part of the Spanish economic wealth that was developed in the early centuries of the Spanish rule in the America�s. Fleets would periodically sail from Spain to the Caribbean twice a year. These fleets carried manufactured goods that would be bartered and traded for precious metals such as gold and silver once reaching the America�s. These fleets typically consisted of heavily armed galleons as protection for the majority of the merchant noas. Also accompanying the fleet were pataches and resfuerzos, small reconnaissance vessels that supplied the ships of the fleet.

The typical Spanish fleets would sail down the coast of Africa until they reached the Cape Verde Islands then sailed westward with the trade winds across the Atlantic ocean until entering the Caribbean. Once the ships reached the Caribbean they would set port and trade manufactured goods from Spain for precious riches of the New World.
The Nueva Espana shipwreck was forgotten until the 20th century. San Pedro�s discovery in Hawk Channel under 20 feet of water during the 1960�s revealed the recovery of several coins dating from 1731 to 1733 as well as cannons trapped under ballast piles, and elements of the ships rigging and hardware. Each ship left large piles of ballast stones, timbers, and treasures yet to be unearthed by a storm and discovered. Much of the wealth and artifacts that were left were salvaged using sophisticated equipment. As a result of this the San Pedro has been reduced to a large pile of rocks with numerous species of coral heads growing on them and a few timbers still sticking out randomly.
Today the San Pedro is one of the most represent able wrecks of the era. The site is 90 feet long by 30 feet wide and is marked by her ballast stones. The vessel is located in a white sand pocket surrounded by turtle grass and coral. The marine life is abundant consisting of snappers, grunts, spadefish, stingrays, parrotfish, angelfish, and the occasional barracuda or nurse shark.
On April 1, 1989, the San Pedro was designated as an Underwater Archaeological Preserve, the second site in Florida to have this honor. The Wreck is among one of the oldest artificial reefs in Florida and has been enhanced by the placement of seven reproduction cannons and an 18th century anchor by the Indiana University Underwater Science Program. A dedication plaque was also placed reminding visitors of the cultural values of preservation and its history.

1733 Spanish Fleet Statistics