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The 1641 fleet: The Concepción

The 1641 fleet: The Concepción

Authored By Richard Perdomo

The Story

The Concepción was one of the most significant Spanish wrecks of all time, serving the Spanish with a loss of over 100 tons of silver and gold treasure. The almiranta of a 21-ship fleet, the Concepción set out on a journey to the New World, filled to the brim with treasures for Spain. 

The Concepción had already experienced what the Indes had to offer, storms, privateers, and it's rudders and sails were improperly sized. Hobbling along in poor repair, she encountered a dangerous storm that ripped apart her sails. Morale low, they made the decision to head back to port, although there was confusion as to where exactly that was. After a few weeks out at sea, they grounded on a dangerous reef, just east of the Abrojos, the reef the navigators were trying to avoid. 

Stranded, hanging on by a rope, disaster strikes a second time, destroying the wrecked ship. The Admiral and his officers took the only longboat to safety, leaving the rest of the crew to desperately make any semblance of a raft using what was left of the ship. Around 300 men, fighting tooth and nail, against drowning, sharks, and starvation were lost.

The Ship's pieces were spread everywhere, and salvaging methods back then couldn't predict the weird scatter of the wreckage, and the survivors accounts couldn't accurately pinpoint the wreck, until 40 years later, in 1687 when William Phipps of New England was able to find it, and salvage tons of gold and silver to the delight of his english backers. 

The Concepción was found again in 1978 by Burt Webber, Jr., whose divers recovered some 60,000 silver cobs, mostly Mexican 8 and 4 reales but also some Potosí and rare Colombian cobs (including more from the Cartagena mint than had been found on any other shipwreck). Unlike the Maravillas of just 15 years later, however, the Concepción did not give up any gold cobs in our time, and any significant artifacts found were retained by the government of the Dominican Republic, who oversaw the salvage. The bulk of the silver cobs found on the Concepción were heavily promoted, even in department stores! The site is still being worked from time to time with limited success.


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