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Florida Shipwrecks


The waters around Florida have claimed ships from the earliest days of discovery.
Uncharted reefs, tropical storms and hurricanes along with unfriendly natives all made it risky business to be sailing Florida waters.

Following is a partial list of lost ships, and sailors. 

Year ShipDetails


Unnamed Caravel

 The ship was a part of the expedition of Don Lucas Vasques de Ayllon, sailing from Spain in 1524. It was lost near Cape St. Helen. All of the 200 survivors were massacred by natives.


Unnamed Vessel

 Wrecked on the coast of Florida and of it's crew, some 200 souls, some were slain and some became slaves to the natives.

Bef 1550


 In a description of the coasts of Florida dated 1550, there is a brief mention of Narvey losing a ship in the Espiritu Santo River on the coast of Florida.


Nao "Visitacion"

 Captain Pedro de la Torre, sailing alone from Vera Cruz to Spain, was wrecked on the Florida Keys.


Nao "San Nicholas"

 200 ton, captained by Juan Cristoval, was wrecked near Ais and the natives recovered a great deal of the cargo. There was no mention of what it's cargo might have been. It was on it's way to Spain from Nombre de Dios and Cartagena.


Probably "San Nicholas"

 There is mention of a 13 year old lad, Hernando de Escalante, being wrecked on the coast of Ais and being held captive for many years. On his return to Spain, he wrote a valuable account about the Florida indians and their customs. He was probably a survivor of the San Nicholas.


No name

 Brief mention that “three ships carrying treasure were wrecked near Rio Palmas in 26 degrees and 30 minutes of latitude.”
Source: AGI, Mexico, legajo 323. “Memo" Owned by Sr. Bolanos, part of the Armada de Tierra Firme


Nao, Santa Maria del Camino

 350 tons, Captain Diego Diaz, Bartlome Carreño was lost on the coast of Florida, and everything it carried was salvaged by the Spaniards. This ship may have been one of the three mentioned above. Source: AGI, Contratacion 2898, f. 188.


Two naos were lost on the coast of Florida

 San Estevan, 220 tons, Captain Francisco del Mecerno (spelled Mercesno in another document), coming from Mexico; and Sancta Maria de Yciar. 220 tons, Captain Alonso Ozosi, owned by Miguel de Jaurequi, coming from Mexico. Both may have been two of those mentioned in above. Source: Real Academia de Ia Historia, Madrid, Coleccion Mufloz, tomo 17. 87, f. 139.


The ship of Farfan (probably its owner)

 It sank near Ais, richly ladened with gold and silver, and the Indians of the King of Ais recovered a great deal from the wreck. This wreck is possibly the San Estevan mentioned above, but it could be an entirely different shipwreck. Source: Col. Nay., T. XVI, #1086, f. 359.


No Name

 Several ships of the Flota de Tierra Firme commanded by Cosine Rodriquez Farfan (possibly the same Farfan mentioned above) were separated from the convoy soon after entering the Bahama Channel after a storm hit the convoy, and were never heard of again. Although the document is dated 1555, it is possible that it occurred in 1554 and the San Estevan (see above) was one of these missing ships. The two naos mentioned above could not have been two of his missing ships, as they were coming from Mexico, unless they were incorporated into his flota in Havana. Source: AGI, Indiferente General, legajo 737.


No Name

 Indians of the King of Ais are reported to have recovered over a million pesos in bars of gold and silver and many precious pieces of jewelry made by the Indians of Mexico, near Cape Canaveral, from Armada (sic) of Nueva Espafla, of which it is said the son of Pedro de Menendez was the general. The document containing this information was dated 1570, and, although the Indians made this recovery in 1556, the ship or ships might have wrecked at an earlier date. The wording of the document makes it impossible to determine if only one ship or several, or the whole fleet, sank, but it was probably only one or several ships. Otherwise, there would be a great deal more mentioned about this in other contemporary documents. Source: Col Nay., t. XVI, #1086, f. 360.


Three naos

 Three naos under the command of Captain Gonzalo de Carbajal, sailing from Puerto Rico to Spain, were lost on the coast of Florida. Only two were identified: Sancta Salbador, 120 tons, Captain Guillen de Lugo; and another with identical name, also 120 tons, Captain Martin de Artaleco. Source: AGI, Contratacion, legajo 2898, f. 197 vto.


No Names

 A fleet of thirteen vessels sailed from Vera Cruz on June 11th under the command of Don Tristan de Luna y Arellano, Governor of Florida, where they planned to plant a new colony. On August 14th, the fleet anchored in the Bay of Santa Maria, and, on the night of September 19th, the fleet was struck by a tempest from the north which lasted 24 hours and shattered to pieces five ships, a galleon, and a bark, with great loss of life. It swept a caravel, with its cargo, into a grove of trees more than the distance of a harquebus shot from the shore. Source: Lowery, 1901, pp. 358 - 61.

Before 1564

No Names

 There is a note appended to Rojomonte’s deposition in “Noticias de la Populacion.. .“, 1564, pp. 3-4, which mentions the loss of three ships of Don Juan Menendez on the Florida coast. Fontanedo in his “Memoria” appears to say that Juan Menendez was wrecked upon the coast of Indian River, Florida. It is possible that these might be the three ship- wrecks mentioned in 1554 near Rio Palmas in 26 degrees and 30 minutes of latitude. Source: Woodbury Lowery, The Spanish Settlements within the present limits of the United States, 1562-1574, (New York & London, 1905), p. 139 footnote.


No Names

 Two ships of the Frenchman Ribaut were wrecked during a storm along the shore between Matanzas and Mosquito Inlet. Part of the crews drowned in attempting to reach shore, and the Indians captured and killed most of the others. Source: Lowery, 1905, p. 190.


Menendez de Aviles

 On the coast of Florida one of the naos of Pero (sic) Menendez de Aviles was lost. Source: Cesareo Fernandez de Duro, Armada Española desde la union de las coronas de Castilla y Leon, (9 tomos, Madrid, 1895-1905), tomo II, p. 438.


No Name

 When some Spaniards were exploring the area of Tampa Bay in 1567, they discovered a Portuguese trader from the port of Algarve, Portugal. He was the only survivor from a ship which had wrecked upon the coast and had been a prisoner of the Indian Chief Tocobaya. All others from the wreck had been killed by the Indians. Source: Lowery, 1905, p. 279.

Before 1570


 The ship Vizcayo, on which Don Anton Granado was a passenger, wrecked near Ais, richly ladened, and the Indians of the King of Ais salvaged a great deal of her treasure. Source: Col. Nay., t. XVI, #1086, f. 362.

Before 1570

El Mulato

 An urca (type of ship), El Mulato, was wrecked richly ladened at Ais, where the Indians recovered a great deal of her treasure. This was not the same ship as mentioned above. Source: Col. Nay., t. XVI, # 1086, f. 363.

1571 or 1572

No Names

 Two ships, which were going from Mexico to Santo Domingo to receive a cargo of sugar and hides, were lost by reason of a storm off Cape Canaveral, at the end of the Bahama Channel; and as the crews were journeying to the fort of St. Augustine, which was a distance of thirty leagues, the Indians massacred most of them. Source: From a letter written by Adelantado Pedro Menendez de Aviles, quoted in — Colonial Records of Spanish Florida, translated by Jeannette Thruber Conner, (two vols., Fla. Hist. Soc., 1925), vol. I, p. 31.


No Name

 Adelantado Pedro Menendez de Avilas left St. Augustine in two small tenders and a bark, heading for Havana. While sailing down the coast of Florida, the vessels were separated by a storm. The bark reached Havana safely, but the tender in which Aviles and some Jesuits were sailing was wrecked near Cape Canaveral, and all thirty persons on board reached shore and constructed a small fort from the wreckage. Sometime afterwards they walked safely back to St. Augustine. The other tender wrecked on shore in the province of Ays, where the crew was killed by natives and their vessel was burned. Source: Ibid, vol. I, pp. 373-4.

  "Shipwrecks in Florida Waters" by Robert F. Marx 1969