A beachcomber exploring sea caves along the northern coast of western Oregon, USA, discovered antlers from the hull of the wreck of the Spanish galleon Beeswax which sank in the Pacific Ocean more than 300 years ago, state officials have just announced.
In recent years, explorers have searched by land and sea along the Oregon Coast for the remains of a long-lost Spanish galleon trading vessel known as the Santo Cristo de Burgos. The ship disappeared on a voyage from the Philippines to Mexico in 1693, as it apparently drifted badly off course before being wrecked somewhere near the modern village of Manzanita.
This was known because pieces of the Spanish Galleon washed up on northern Oregon beaches for many decades. Among these 300-year-old artifacts were numerous blocks of beeswax, which were used to make candles for Catholic ceremonies and were regularly shipped from Asia to the Spanish colonies in Mexico in centuries past. Due to the unusual nature of this object, in northern Oregon, the lost Santo Cristo de Burgos became the Beeswax Wreck, which has its own Wikipedia page!
A model of the Spanish galleon Santo Cristo de Burgos which was en route from the Philippines to Mexico in 1693 when it was blown away and sunk in coastal Oregon waters. Mayor of Manzanita Ben Lane with a model of the Santo Cristo de Burgos in a photo from 1951. ( Oregon Historical Society Research Library )
The Beeswax Trail Parts and Artifacts of Spanish Galleons!
One of the most enthusiastic and persistent amateur explorers in search of the Beeswax wreck was a Tillamook County commercial fisherman named Craig Andes. While exploring a particular sea cave along the rugged Oregon coast a few years ago, he came across a large piece of wood that looked like it had been cut down and adapted for use in building a ship. In 2019, Andes found about a dozen more worked and polished pieces of wood inside the same cave, which had been freshly exposed by quicksand.
At this point, there was no doubt in Andes’ mind that he had found the remains of a shipwreck of some type. He suspected that the antlers might have come from the hull of the legendary Spanish galleon Santo Cristo de Burgos, but he couldn’t be sure until experts were brought in to take a closer look at what he had found.
In search of answers, archaeologists performed radiocarbon dating tests on the wood found inside the cave. These examinations confirmed that the timbers dated from the time of the Spanish galleon wreck of the 17th century.
It had already been established that the Santo Cristo de Burgos was wrecked in the area because many small pieces of Chinese porcelain matching what was known to have been carried by the ship had washed ashore over the years. Careful analysis has proven that the porcelain originated from items made during the Kangxi period in China, which lasted from 1661 to 1722.
A geological study revealed that a layer of sediment covering some of the artifacts recovered from the ship had been deposited by a tsunami that hit the area in 1700, and in the window of 1661 to 1700 the Santo Cristo de Burgos was the only galleon spanish lost anywhere in the north. Peaceful.
Caves in the area where the remains of the wreckage were found. (Courtesy Scott Williams/ SAM)
A secret and daring rescue
Even though Andes made its discovery in 2019, it wasn’t until 2022 that the antlers could be recovered from the sea cave. The recovery operation was a complex affair, as maritime archaeologists and local law enforcement officials worked with search and rescue teams and Oregon park rangers (the sea cave is located within the boundaries of a national park) to extract the heavy pieces of wood from the hard-to-reach caves and bring them back to earth with jet skis.
“It was incredible to pull off such a complex operation, made entirely possible by the teamwork, cooperation and exceptional professionalism of everyone involved,” said James Delgado, Principal Archaeological Researcher of the Santo Cristo de Burgos Project. for cultural resource management company SEARCH, Inc., National Geographic told.
This artifact salvage operation took place in mid-June, and it was only after its completion that state officials agreed to release to the public that part of the sunken Santo Cristo de Burgos had been found. Earlier disclosure would have invited unwanted intrusions by members of the public and possibly artifact thieves, so it took some time to make the exciting announcement.
Beeswax with a Spanish shipping mark from a lost Spanish galleon that washed up on the coast near Manzanita, Oregon. Courtesy of Clatsop County Historical Society. ( Cannon Beach History Center and Museum )
Myths and Legends of Santo Cristo de Burgos
The Santo Cristo de Burgos sailed from the Spanish colony of Manila in the Philippines in 1693. Its hold was filled with high-quality and highly prized Asian wares, including Chinese silks and porcelain and beeswax used to make candles for religious ceremonies. He was heading for the Spanish colonies in Mexico, on a well-established and busy trade route that flourished for 250 years (1565-1815).
It’s unclear exactly what happened, but somehow the ship got lost and ended up hundreds of miles north of its intended destination. The ship is believed to have been wrecked when it struck an island of sand dunes known as Nehalem Spit, which lies about 6 kilometers south of the village of Manzanita in Tillamook County. Ocean waves apparently carried parts of the wreckage to the steep cliffs of the northern Oregon coast, and when that happened some of the broken timbers were deposited inside a sea cave that has penetrated the rock face.
Legends passed down from local Native American groups speak of an alien ship that sank just off the coast centuries ago. There were survivors of the wreck who came ashore and eventually met and possibly lived with the Native American peoples of the area for at least a time.
Finding the galleon antlers “confirms that our ancestral people knew what they were talking about,” said Robert Kentta, a representative of the Siletz Tribal Council and Confederate Siletz Tribes. “They told oral histories in a way that just told the truth.”
At 19 e century, stories began to spread about the wrecked ship among white settlers. These were wild stories that claimed that the Spanish galleon had been filled with gold and some of the treasure might have been buried nearby. Soon, treasure hunters began roaming the area with shovels and pickaxes, digging the earth in search of lost gold.
These stories were false, as the ship had not carried any gold. Nevertheless, at some point, Steven Spielberg apparently heard the story of the lost treasure of the Santo Cristo de Burgos, and it inspired him to write the story which was made into the cult 1985 film. The Goonies . This film highlights the adventures of a group of young explorers who find a lost galleon laden with gold in a huge sea cave along the rugged Oregon coast.
These fragments of Kangxi-period Chinese porcelain were part of the precious cargo carried by the ill-fated Spanish galleon that sank off the coast of Oregon nearly 300 years ago. ( Maritime Archeology Society )
The search continues…
James Delgado will lead a team of marine archaeologists who will study and analyze salvaged timbers at the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon. He hopes examining the remains of the Santo Cristo de Burgos will reveal information about how the ship was built, how it fell apart and why it ultimately sank.
“Will it answer big questions? Probably not,” Delgado said in an interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting. “But it’s another step in a process that could potentially lead to new discoveries.”
While salvaging the lumber scattered throughout the sea cave is exciting, what has been found is only a small percentage of what could be out there. Volunteers from the Astoria-based Maritime Archeology Society, which was set up 15 years ago specifically to search for the remains of the Santo Cristo de Burgos, hope to one day salvage the ship’s lower hull, which they believe could find at the bottom of the sea. near the location of sea caves.
“We haven’t found what we would call ‘the wreckage,'” said Scott Williams, vice president and senior researcher at the Maritime Archaeological Society. “We don’t know if something like ‘The Wreck’ exists.”
The search for the remaining sections of the ship will continue, by highly motivated searchers whose minds have been stimulated by the incredible discovery of Craig Andres.
Top image: A hobbyist has found a new piece of wood from the Spanish Galleon known as the Beeswax Wreck. To date, many artifact fragments have been found on this rugged coastal area, including pieces of Chinese porcelain. This image shows an unnamed wooden wreck buried on a sandy beach. Credit: Scott Williams / Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff
By Nathan Falde