By Bob Rountree, FloridaRambler.com, Special to EyesOnNews.com, June 16, 2015 – Florida was strategically important for the protection of Spanish galleons that plied their way home with precious metals plundered from South America and the Caribbean.
Heavily-laden vessels called the plate fleets sailed up the Gulf Stream through the straits that parallel Florida’s Keys, and pirates would prey on the fleets from their hidden sanctuaries in the Keys and along the Florida coast.
Hurricanes created additional hazards, sometimes wrecking the ships on the reefs and shoals along Florida’s shores, and pirates would be waiting on our beaches, looking to see what washed ashore.
Survivors of the wrecks would be sold into slavery or ransomed, while others would be tortured to force disclosure of where a ship sank.
The Treasure Coast
In 1715, a Spanish treasure fleet of 12 galleons gathered in Havana and sailed for Spain, only to face a hurricane seven days later off the coast of what is now Vero Beach.
All but one of the ships was lost in the storm. A thousand sailors perished while a small number survived on lifeboats. Many ships took part in the initial salvage when pirates, led by the English privateer Henry Jennings and others, staged raids on Spanish divers.
To this day, some artifacts and even coins still wash up on Florida beaches from time to time.READ MORE