Saturday, June 13, 2015

British shipwreck off Uruguay could hold treasure

The ancient lure of gold, rum and other treasure is drawing a horde of modern speculators to the salvage of a British warship that sunk in 1763 off the coast of Uruguay.

The wreck of the Lord Clive was discovered in 2004, but it was only this year that the Uruguayan government gave permission for the vessel to be recovered.
The vessel was originally HMS Kingston, a Royal Navy ship, launched on 13 March 1697. She had an eventful career, taking part in numerous battles. The ship was sold to privateers linked to the East India Company on 14 January 1762, and renamed Lord Clive.

The privateers, fighting for Portugal, planned to conquer Spanish territory in South America. On January 6, 1763, they tried to capture Colonia del Sacramento. Lord Clive and several other ships started bombardment, but encountered strong resistance from the city gun battery. After three hours, a fire broke out on Lord Clive: it rapidly spread and, when the magazine blew up, she sunk immediately - 272 were killed.

The ship may have been holding gold and a cargo of rum. Under the command of Robert McNamara of the East India Company it joined a Portuguese assault on the Spanish. British merchants wanted to disrupt Spanish trade with the New Wold. There were 78 survivors and the officers who lived were quickly tried and hung.

The wreckage was in six metres of water.
After peace was declared, Spanish mariners handed the territory back to Britain’s Portuguese allies. Before leaving, they smashed the city wall and dumped the rocks on the Lord Clive so it could not be refloated.

Whether the wreckage has been looted is unknown, but some believe it will still contain the gold coins the captain was given to pay for the intended three-year expedition, thousands of litres of rum, 64 bronze cannons and booty the crew had earlier seized from another ship.
The salvage operation – which will require cranes, excavators and about 80 workers – is expected to begin within two months.