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Vliegenthart, sunk in 1735 off Zeeland, the Netherlands

The East Indiaman Vliegenthart (“Flying Hart” in Dutch) had just departed Rammekens for the East Indies when the deadly combination of a northeast gale, a spring tide and pilot error sent her into a sand bank behind her sister-ship Anna Catharina. The latter ship broke apart in the storm while the Vliegenthart, damaged and firing her cannons in distress, slipped off the bank and sank in 10 fathoms of water. All hands on both ships were lost.

Contemporaneous salvage under contract with the Dutch East India Company was unsuccessful, but it did provide a piece of evidence—a secret map—that did not emerge from obscurity until 1977. Stemming from that, divers under the former London attorney Rex Cowan discovered the wreck in 1981, and in 1983 they found their first coins, one of three chests of Mexican silver and Dutch gold coins (totaling 67,000 guilders or dollar-sized units) for the East India trade aboard the Vliegenthart. The second chest was smashed on the seabed and its contents partially salvaged, while the third chest, intact like the first, came up in 1992. The divers also recovered several smaller boxes of large Dutch silver coins known as “ducatoons,” illegally exported and therefore contraband. Among the silver coins found were thousands of Mexican cobs, predominantly 8 reales, many with clear dates in the early 1730s and in excellent condition.


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