Texas State archaeologist searches for Captain Morgan's lost ships

Captain Morgan lost 5 ships off Panama in 1671

Courtesy: Texas State University
Courtesy: Texas State University

SAN ANTONIO – A Texas State University archaeologist is searching for Captain Morgan's long lost pirate ships.

In 1671, Morgan lost five ships near Panama as he sacked Panama City. They have never been found.

Fritz Hanselmann is leading a team from Texas State University that is currently diving off the coast.

The search is focused near the mouth of the Chagres River, which served as the original Panama Canal.

"Morgan used it so he could get a hold of all that gold and silver the Spanish were bringing from the Pacific to the Caribbean," said Hanselmann.

Hanselmann has spent the past two summers diving off Panama looking for the shipwrecks. In 2010, his team found six cannons.

They're all different sizes, they have English and French markings and they're from the 17th century, so they very much fit the profile of what Morgan would have had on his wreck... so they look like they're Morgan's guns," said Hanselmann.

Last year, Hanselmann's team found a large portion of a wooden ship's hull, complete with unopened cargo boxes and chests.

After funding ran out, the makers of Captain Morgan's rum stepped in, helping pay for the dives.

While they may never find the treasure or rum in the wrecks, Hanselmann said the sunken ships will give new information about the 17th century.

"It's kind of a snapshot of what was going on at the time. What was the Spanish Main like, what were they trading, what were they eating?" said Hanselmann.

For Hanselmann, the ship is the treasure. If he finds any valuable artifacts, they will be turned over to the Panamanian government.

Hanselmann is also interested by Captain Morgan himself.

"He was a very interesting figure, a polarizing figure and no one has ever found his shipwrecks before and that's part of what we're looking at with this project is where are his wrecks," said Hanselmann.

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