{1 mile south of Guam. }
authentic spanish galleon map
Cocos Island is a 100-acre island at Guam's Southern Coast surrounded by a clear, turquoise lagoon off the shores of Merizo accessible by glass-bottom boats. Besides being a favorite picnic/dining site, Cocos Island is the focus of international attention as a Spanish galleon wreak site which has yet to be recovered. Ten commercial divers and underwater archaeologists have been excavating the ocean depths since may 98.

In June 2, 1690, the Neustra Senora del Pilar de Zaragosa y Santiago hit the southern reef at Cocos Island. It was enroute from Acupulco, Mexico to an annual fair in Manila with shipments of silver swords and artifacts. With its bottom torn, the Spanish Manila galleon sank in ocean waters at depths of 30 to 87 feet. Its naval crew, and some Franciscan missionaries escaped the galleon before it slipped into the ocean shelf. Ships that sailed the trade route carry silks, spices and jewelry from Manila to Acapulco. These items were traded and the galleons carried silver and gold ingots and Spanish coins back across the Pacific to manila.

A 1691 Spanish court of inquiry into the Pilar's loss reported only one chest of silver was recovered. There is a good chance that she was carrying as much as $1.2 billion Spanish coins as ballast in the lower decks of her hold. The sunken hull of the Pilar broke apart during following typhoons and its wreckage drifted into deeper waters. 300 years ago, Guam and the Marianas Island Chain was a provisioning stopover in the Spanish Galleon Trade. [click this line]
Cocos Island Resort Guam
North Shore Cocos Isle
artifacts from cocos wreck
Salvaged items from galleon wreck at Cocos
internal view of spanish galleon
Commemorative voyage Guam Stopover by Magellan spanish galleon
Site of Spanish Galleon Wreak
Cocos Island Site of Galleon Wreck

The Pacific Daily News reports that so far, Salvagers have recovered iron fasteners, drift pins, musket balls, lead hull sheeting, silver coins, cannon balls, pottery and a religious medallion. The Pilar Project began in 1991, about 1,500 artifacts have been salvaged. The govt of Guam has a claim on the 300 year old wreck and the salvaging rights to the Pilar was awarded to a marine archaeogist Duncan Mathewson, John Bent and Andy Matroci. The story of the ship is a regular feature in a documentary for the Science Frontiers series by the Discovery Channel.

Fifty Miles north of Guam, another 16th Century Galleon named the Santa Margarita sunk in the strong currents outside the reef off the Isle of Rota's Teteto village. The Santa Margarita went down on its way from Manila to Acapulco, Mexico. The IOTA Partners currently have the Commonwealth of the Marianas permits to salvage the wreck after finding its anchor and artifacts.

Tracing The Path of The Great Spanish Galleon Ships

For 250 years great merchant vessels regularly plied the Pacific, linking Manila in the Philippines Far East and Acapulco, the viceroyalty in New Spain or Mexico. Other than the layover at Acapulco, the only anticipated stop on the year-long voyage was made on the return trek to Manila when the galleons replenish water and food at Rota and Guam. By 1600 the track of the galleons was well established.

The fleets sailed from Manila's port of Cavite in late June or early July in order to clear the San Bernardino Straits by August when poor weather and adverse winds could be expected, and headed northeast. They usually crossed the meridian of the Marianas in the vicinity of the Bonin Islands, although occasionally between the northernmost of the Marianas, ran southeast of Japan, rose to a northern parallel between 30 degrees and 40 degrees before heading eastward, and passed north of the Hawaiian Islands to a point near the California coast. They then veered south for Acapulco.

Unless the crossing had been unusually difficult, the galleons reached Acapulco before the end of the year, in time for the great fair. Their large cargoes (Chinese silks and brocades, Indian and Philippine cottons, Oriental procelains, and other treasures of the East) were exchanged for Mexican and Peruvian silver. The ship were refitted, men and supplies for overseas garrisons and missions, government officials and colonists and their families boarded for departure by mid-Frebruary.

The galleons' westward track followed a southerly route, southwest from Acapulco, to somewhere between the 10th and 11th parallel, then steadily westward to the vicinity of the Marianas when they gradually rose to the 13th or 14 parallel to fall in with the southernmost islands of Guam and Rota. Hazards, deprivations, rigours, and often death were encountered on the Pacific crossing with some ship wrecks during the island stopovers.

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