Tiperon Islands authorities announced Thursday the discovery of a previously-unknown shipwreck off Blacktip Island’s west coast. The wreck, possibly dating to the early 18th Century, was discovered by scuba diving tourists.
“Couple of knuckleheads got lost and stumbled across it,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “They came up on the wrong boat, hell-and-gone from where they started, with no idea where they were or where they’d been. Took us three days of swimming grid patterns to find the damn thing.”
“It’s too early to tell for sure what we’re dealing with,” said government spokesperson Doc Plank, “but it’s definitely a galleon-type vessel, and there’s not many of those unaccounted for in this part of the Caribbean.”
Local maritime experts speculate the ship is the legendary Santo Mojito, which terrorized the Spanish Main under three famous pirate captains. The ship was lost in the Great Hurricane of 1723.
“Redbeard absconded with the ship, crew and all, from the docks in Cartagena in, oh, 1712,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “Blackbeard commandeered it from him in 1718, then lost it to Fauxbeard in what the records famously call ‘a gamme of pokker’ in 1721.
“Historians are in consensus that Fauxbeard was the nom de guerre of pirate Mary Read after she faked her death in Jamaica the year before,” Altshul said.
“The Santo Mojto was refitted as a casino cruise ship, the first of its kind in the Caribbean,” Altschul said. “She left Panama in mid-September. A week later the hurricane whacked the central Caribbean. The Santo Mojito was never heard from again.”
“If this is the S-M, it’s a priceless piece of Caribbean history,” Blacktip Island Historic Association chair Wade Soote said. “So’s all the gold she carried. Especially the gold.”
The government is flying in experts from the United State and Europe to confirm their findings. In the meantime, authorities are focused on preserving the wreck and its contents.
“We’ve cordoned off the area with fishing skiffs until we can positively identify the wreck and inventory its contents,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said.
“Yahoos’ve tried to sneak in on underwater DPVs, but their scuba bubbles gave them away,” Marquette said. “Our big concern is looters using rebreathers that leave no tell-tail bubble trail. We’ve installed nets made of 200-pound monofilament around the wreck to discourage that. Divers can’t see the monofil, but it tangles them up in a heartbeat. Then we just haul them to the surface.”
The Caribbean Salvage and Exploration Association is protesting the government’s efforts to protect the wreck, as well as the netting of several of its members.
“It’s a pirate ship filled with pirate treasure,” said CSEA commandant Jack Snapper. “Its rightful place is with pirates, not some government warehouse.”
“If this island’s authorities aren’t pirates, I don’t know who is,” Doc Plank said. “Any treasure found on this wreck will used for the public good. Mostly.”