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Name List of Sunken 'Beeswax' Ship Found in Seville, Spain

  • Astoria History Museum exhibit showing a beeswax block thought be have been part of the Spanish galleon Santo Cristo de Burgos.

    Astoria History Museum exhibit showing a beeswax block thought be have been part of the Spanish galleon Santo Cristo de Burgos. | Photo: EFE

Published 8 July 2018

Nobles, clerics, and sailors were among those who perished in a Spanish ship off the coast of Oregon in 1693. Some survived and took root in Oregon.  

The passenger list of a Spanish ship that went down off the coast of Oregon filled with beeswax and porcelain has been located in its home country in the city of Seville.

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Archaeologists at the Maritime Archaeological Society (MAS) in Astoria, Oregon have been working for over a decade to understand the Beeswax Wreck - the name they’ve given to the Spanish ‘Santo Cristo de Burgos’ ship that went down off the coast of Oregon sometime in 1693 as it made its way to Mexico.

Scott Williams, lead archaeologist on the beeswax wreck says the ship went down near Manzanitas, Oregon, but has never been found. What is known from records is that the ship carried large blocks of beeswax marked with Spanish symbols and "large candles destined for churches, monasteries, and homes," Williams tells Efe. The ship also carried porcelain blue and white china destined the European markets.

The MAS researchers found the list in a Seville archive, where important documents are housed regarding the Spanish Empire’s colonization of the New World.

Williams says that "the passenger list is interesting because often with ancient shipwrecks people are more interested in the treasure than in the human factor."

He says there were 231 people on board at the time the vessel went down. "About 170 of the men on board were Spaniards, including nobles, military men, and clerics, as well as common seamen. About 64 crew members were Hispanic-Filipino, Chinese, Malaysian and possibly Japanese and African."

The ship was sailing from one of Spain’s colonized territories - the Philippines - to another - Mexico - when the men were forced to sink or swim.

The lead archaeologist says that many of the elite and sailors, “survived the shipwreck and settled temporarily in these lands leaving offspring. Many people of the time ... did not know how to swim and the Oregon coast is very treacherous because of its cold water and big waves."

The Santo Cristo de Burgos was one of Spain’s "galleon of Manila" - Spanish ships that between 1565 and 1815, voyaged once or twice a year across the Pacific between the Philippines and Mexican’s western coast carrying Asian products and then returned with products from what would become the Americas.

Some of the goods were traversed across Mexico to Veracruz, then sailed to Spain.

"They were the biggest ships of their time," says Williams.

The history of the beeswax shipwreck has been documented in local writings and native Americans in the region. The Nehalem Indians told colonizing whites in the region of the sinking and its survivors. Large beeswax blocks have also washed ashore and are now housed at the Astoria historical society.

"We know that the ship sailed from the Philippines short of crew." He suspects that if the ship had been damaged it was more difficult to repair.

The archaeologist says that the MAS does not have the resources to look for the sunken galleon, but "maybe some other institution will help."

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