• Shore Spain Tours Team

Sunken treasures, underwater heritage in Cartagena

Recovered sunken treasures are part of the amazing underwater heritage that you can enjoy during your visit to Cartagena. “Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes” was a late 18th century frigate with 36 guns. It was attacked on its way home, just before arriving to his final destination, the coast of Cadiz, when the vessel was carrying 17 tons of gold and silver coins, as well as some other transatlantic goods (961 copper ingots, 1,139 tin ingots, wool, raw cocoa, animal skins and medicinal plants such as Peruvian bark and rhatany).

Sunk in 1804 by the British Navy off the coast of the Algarve (Portugal), shattering after an explosion in the powder magazine, all 250 men on board lost, together with her cargo of treasure. The frigate had become a legend for treasure hunters, until controversial news about the recovery of 17 tons of coins by the salvage company in June 2007 and the epic stories (and was even published by TIME) and secrets surrounding their venture. But finally “the treasure” returned to Spain and is preserved now in the southeastern Spanish city of Cartagena.

The recovered cargo of the frigate consists of some 578,000 silver coins and only 212 pieces of gold, and are now on display at the permanent exhibition on ARQVA (National Museum of Underwater Archaeology), a museum that emphasises the importance of underwater heritage and explains the historical context and circumstances surrounding the sinking of the frigate Mercedes.

Spain was one of the first countries to have ratified UNESCO’s 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage in year 2005. The Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, is intended to enable States to better protect their submerged cultural heritage. The main principles of the Convention include the obligation to preserve Underwater Cultural Heritage, In Situ preservation as first option, no commercial exploitation and Training and Information Sharing between all States Parties.

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