Abstract: Exploring Tristan de Luna's Lost Galleon: A Study of Florida's Earliest Shipwreck


Discovery of a well-preserved early Spanish shipwreck in Pensacola Bay, Florida, has reopened a long forgotten chapter of Latin-American history.  Assembled by the Viceroy of New Spain, a fleet of eleven ships under the command of Tristán de Luna embarked from Mexico in 1559 to establish a colony on the shores of La Florida.  Aboard the ships were more than 1,500 soldiers, settlers, and servants equipped with livestock, agricultural and construction tools. The colonists disembarked at Pensacola, only to suffer a hurricane that destroyed all but three of the ships anchored in the harbor, some of which had not yet been unloaded.  The catastrophe doomed the Luna colony, which was eventually abandoned in 1561.

During a survey of shipwrecks in Pensacola Bay, underwater archaeologists from the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research have discovered the remains one of the larger galleons in Luna’s fleet buried beneath a shallow sandbar.  Two campaigns of careful excavation have revealed a surprisingly well-preserved array of colonial artifacts, as well as faunal and botanical specimens, that present a fascinating portrait of Spain’s ill-fated attempt to secure a foothold on the frontier of its American empire.  Follow the archaeologists as they explore Florida’s earliest shipwreck.

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