THE TREASURE OF THE CONCEPCION by Peter Earle

THE TREASURE OF THE CONCEPCION

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A spare, factual, absorbing work of sea-history about a famed Spanish treasure ship, the Concepcion, which sank on a reef in the West Indies near the Dominican Republic in 1641--and was discovered last year, thanks to Earle's researches. The Spanish empire was on the verge of crumbling when a fleet of old galleons and other ships was dispatched to Mexico City to recoup the King's silver and bring it back swiftly. Spain may have conquered the Caribbean but the fleet was menaced by privateers and took its sweet time getting safely to its final port. Over a year had passed before a commission from Spain demanded that the ships return with the urgently needed silver. Unwisely, they set out into the monsoon season, and their ensuing horrors are marvelously described not only by Earle but by the survivors who kept daily records. The Concepcion grounded on a reef and remained there for weeks while the hundreds on board gradually departed by lifeboat and raft. And then the ship sank, grinding to pieces much like the empire's hopes. Later Spanish voyagers attempted to locate the sunken silver but it was not until 42 years later that an English captain found it and, with the aid of divers, recovered a quarter-million pounds worth of silver. There was more to be retrieved but the wreck could not be relocated; it had in fact broken up and scattered. Over 300 years passed before Earle turned up the missing ship's log that led Butt Webber and His Wonderful Magnetometer to sweep the seabottom in the correct area and find the Concepcion last January. Rewarding and laced with quiet ironies.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Viking