National Geographic – Atocha Shipwreck 1976

This is the June 1976 edition of National Geographic Magazine. It features an article on the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, a shipwreck in the Lower Keys, not too far from Key West.

Mel Fisher (8/21/1922 – 12/19/1998), his family and his company of friends and investors discovered the wreck in July 1985. Through many years of effort, Fisher and his company, Salvors. Inc., eventually recovered some $450 million (€400 million) in treasure from the ship. Using Spanish records listing the treasure originally loaded on the Atocha in Havana, Cuba, it’s estimated they found only about 50% of the valuable cargo.

The Nuestra Señora de Atocha (our Lady of Atocha) was one of hundreds of ships from the Empire of Spain that did their best to remove tons of silver, gold, copper and gemstones (along with anything else of value) from South and Central America as well as the Caribbean between the years 1566 and 1790.

The Atocha was wrecked in 1622 during a major hurricane. When the crippled ship finally sank on September 6, it had lost all of her 265 crew and passengers except for three sailors and two slaves, who survived by clinging to the mizzen mast.

The Atocha was named after the Royal Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha (Real Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Atocha), a Catholic church in Madrid, Spain. The basilica was first consecrated in 1150. The current church dates from 1951 and is a reconstruction of an earlier church.