Shipwreck Treasure in the Philippines

Spanish Galleon

There are hundreds of shipwrecks all over the Philippines. Besides warships from WWII, many Spanish trade ships, the so-called Manila Galleons, and Chinese pottery vessels plying the Silk and Porcelain trade in Asia sunk in the Philippines.

Those sunken Galleons and Chinese porcelain vessels are the shipwrecks that serious treasure hunters are interested in.

Manila Galleons

The Manila Galleons were Spanish trade ships that sailed the Pacific from 1565-1815. They made the long and dangerous journey from Manila, Philippines to Acapulco, Mexico.

Many of those ships were wrecked due to rough sea and coral reefs, killing thousands of men and taking billions in treasure with them.

The cargo

The Manila Galleons carried some of the most valuable cargo of all times. Those ships brought silver and gold coins from Mexico to the Philippines. In Manila, the cargo was unloaded and valuables from Southeast Asia and China were brought on board, including gold, Ming and Ching dynasty porcelain, jade, ivory, pearls, all kinds of artifacts and precious stones.

The estimated value of the freight is between 100 and 500 Million $.

The precious cargo had to go on a long journey. When the treasure ships finally arrived Acapulco after months of traveling, the cargo was brought to the port of Veracruz on the golf of Mexico by land. There it was loaded onto the Spanish Treasure Fleet and brought to Seville.

This trade was so lucrative that merchants in Spain complained about lost profits. In 1593, a law was enforced that only two treasure ships were allowed to leave Manila and Acapulco. Thus, it was important to build the largest galleons possible.

The Manila Galleons turned out to be the hugest ships built up to this point in time. The average galleon was between 1,700 and 2,000 tons and carried 1,000 passengers.

How much sunk and what is left?

Oftentimes, only one of the two treasure ships survived the long and rough journey to Acapulco. The thousands of islands and reefs and bad weather including Typhoons were responsible for wrecking many ships in the Philippines.

The planned length of the voyage was 4 months, but in reality, many galleons took half a year or longer to finally arrive in Acapulco. Many men died of diseases or food-shortage.

Historical accounts put the number of Manila Galleons sunk in the Philippines at 26. There are no records that any of those shipwrecks ever were salvaged.

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