The remains of a sunken 17th century ship belonging to the pirate Captain Henry Morgan have been uncovered in Panama, said a team of archaeologists from the United States and rum manufacturer Captain Morgan.
Morgan lost five ships near the reef of Lajas in 1671, including his flagship "Satisfaction". The team discovered a portion of the starboard side of the hull of a wooden boat and a series unopened cargo boxes encrusted with coral.
The cargo boxes have not yet been opened, but Captain Morgan USA, who sells spicy rum named after the pirate of the same name, is clearly hoping to find some liquor inside.
"There is definitely an irony in the situation," said Fritz Hanselmann an archaeologist for River Systems Institute, the Center for Archaeological Studies at Texas State University and the head of a team of divers from KVUE Austin. The Captain Morgan Rum factory intervened in the search for Captain Morgan after the team, which had discovered a collection of iron cannons nearby, claimed that a lack of funding threatened to end the search.
The new funding has enabled the team to use a magnetometer, which finds metal by detecting deviations in the Earth's magnetic field.
"When the opportunity came to make a possible discovery on this mission, it was logical that we participated. The artifacts discovered during this mission will help describe the life and adventures of Henry Morgan in a way that I never thought possible," said Tom Herbst, Director of Captain Morgan USA.
Captain Morgan has been using the image of the famous pirate on their logo for many years. Furthermore, films such as Disney's, "The Pirates of the Caribbean", have portrayed many pirates as bloodthirsty, captivated by booty and power, as well as, of course, drink from time to time.
But researchers say that the real Morgan doesn’t fit with such an unsavory description.
Morgan was hired by the British Government to protect its colonies in America. He crossed the sea, taking anything that might harm British interests. As the commander of a huge fleet, Morgan had 36 ships, about 1,900 men and 240 cannons.
He was travelling from the entrance to the fortress of San Lorenzo Castle, a Spanish Fort on the cliffs overlooking the mouth of the Chagres River, the passage between the Caribbean and the capital city. While attempting to take the city, and break Spain’s monopoly in the Caribbean, he ran into the Rocky reef waters that surround the fortress and sank along with four other ships. But his career did not end there. He became the Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica and died of natural causes in 1688.
The underwater research team included archaeologists and divers from Texas State University, volunteers from the National Park Service's Submerged Resources Center and NOAA/UNC-Wilmington's Aquarius Reef Base. Rather than the pirate booty, they claim the true story of Captain Henry Morgan is the real treasure.
"For us, the ship is the treasure - the story is the treasure", said MSNBC’s Alan Boyle. "You don’t find a better story than the sack of Panama City by Captain Henry Morgan and the loss of five of their boats."
Artifacts excavated by the diving team in 2010 included six cannons. Any future relics will remain the property of the Government of Panama and will be preserved and presented by the Patronage of Old Panama.