"Treasure Hunt" is the story of a national obsession. Dreams of Spanish treasure, of unearned gold at the bottom of the sea, have been a part of the English psyche since long before effective diving equipment was invented. In 1687, Captain William Phips weighed anchor in English waters with an incredible cargo - nearly forty tons of silver and gold, the treasure of the Spanish galleon Concepcion, wrecked over forty years before on a coral reef in the middle of the ocean. This treasure in coins and bullion had been raised by naked divers, unaided by breathing equipment. The great British treasure-hunting boom had begun. Over the next two hundred years, many such adventures, most based on extremely dubious information, were begun, with many fortunes and lives lost in the process. The real boom for underwater treasure hunting took place in the 1690s, with the invention of crude, very dangerous diving equipment. And, with the advent of the stock market, gambling and treasure-hunting became closely connected to the birth of modern capitalism.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, treasure-hunting became a professional occupation, with a new breed of diver emerging to salvage the wrecks of English and Dutch East-Indiamen carrying treasure to finance purchases in Asia. World-renowned naval historian Peter Earle returns with an extraordinary and little-known history of a peculiarly English phenomenon - of outstanding bravery, of exceptional recklessness, and above all, of dreams of treasure.
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(250mm x mm x mm)
Methuen Publishing Ltd
Publisher: Methuen Publishing Ltd
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US Kirkus Review »
British historian Earle (The Sack of Panama: Captain Morgan and the Battle for the Caribbean, 2007, etc.) delves into the late-17th-century surge in treasure hunting and the diving technology that accompanied it.Shipwrecks were all too common in this age of primitive navigation, when vessels frequently collided with reefs, rocks or the coast. Scavengers focused particularly on the routes traversed by riches-laden Spanish galleons as they sailed from the Americas to the mother country. British strongholds Jamaica and Bermuda were the sites of such fantastic Spanish shipwrecks as the Maravillas and the Concepci-n. The latter, reported to be carrying four million pesos worth of treasure when it sank off the Bahamas, was unearthed in a spectacular 1683 salvage by Boston sea captain William Phips (under permission of the British crown). Unearthed after only two days of searching by four divers, the find made Phips rich and famous. It sparked an epidemic of treasure fever, in particular among those hoping to find Spanish silver in the wrecks from the 1588 Armada off the coast of Ireland. Earle chronicles many of these mostly failed endeavors, including quixotic schemes by Thomas Neale, Richard Long and Collin Hunter, as well as the various attempts to repossess scattered treasure from the fleet of Spanish galleons wrecked in Vigo Bay. Among the numerous innovations in diving equipment that also fueled treasure-seeking mania in the last decade of the 17th century were the diving tub, the sea crab, the diving bell invented by astronomer Edmond Halley and the pump system fashioned by the Braithwaite family. However, Earle's focus is limited; except for brief mentions of Jules Verne's work and the recovered logbooks of William Evans, he largely ignores the rich tradition in literature and the arts sparked by treasure hunters.Thorough, but too restricted in scope to appeal to general readers. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Peter Earle
Peter Earle is Emeritus Reader in Economic History at the University of London. He has written widely on many subjects and his books include A City Fully of People, The Making of the Middle Class, The World of Defoe and Monmouth's Rebels.