SAN MIGUEL & THE 1715 TREASURE FLEET
In December 1659, the harbor town of Havana bustled with activity. The Captain of the San Miguel de Archangel readied his 80 ton Byscane class ship for the long sail home to Spain. The San Miquel was a Royal Adviso ship, one of the scores of small ships that sailed routinely without protection of the large yearly Treasure Fleets. Their main function was the transfer of information. They were the combined telegraph, telephone and mail service. They carried the news keeping the Royal Court informed of the current affairs in their colonies. In other words they were the internet of the 16th and 17th century. Every couple of weeks in times of peace they set sail bringing information and bullion that the Empire sorely needed to function
By 1712 AD Spain was desperately in need of funds (pretty much like today) due to the War of Succession that had seen Phillip V take the throne. To solve this problem the Spanish assembled one of the richest treasure fleets. Come 1715 it consisted of five ships of the Nueva España (Mexico) fleet and six ships of the Tierra Firme (Main Land) fleet. Significant amounts of silver (plate), gold, pearls, jewels (emeralds) and other precious items were loaded at Vera Cruz, Cartagena, Nombre de Dios and Portobello. A further ship, a French merchantman, the Griffon, also joined the convoy. As a further defence against pirates and privateers the fleet waited until just before the hurricane season before setting off from Havana. This was a mistake and a storm destroyed the fleet just seven days after leaving Cuba.