LOOK: Pieces of historic shipwreck discovered on West Coast

Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 10:19 AM MST
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MANZANITA, Ore. (KPTV/Gray News) – For years, there’s been talk about treasure buried along the Oregon Coast. Many will remember the movie “The Goonies,” likely inspired by tales passed down through generations about shipwrecks along the coast and treasure to be found.

Now, archaeologists are continuing to piece together information following a discovery made last week after being tipped off to a possible wreckage in a cave.

Taking advantage of a low tide, they went out last week to look.

Scott Williams is an archaeologist who for 16 years has been searching for a Spanish galleon that went missing in 1693. The ship was carrying silk and beeswax from The Philippines to Mexico when it disappeared. Two years ago, a resident told Williams he found what looked like wood from an ancient ship.

“When the beachcomber told me he found shipwreck pieces, I told him ‘I doubt it,’” Williams told KPTV. “You know, you just don’t get shipwreck wood preserving for 300 years.”

There were lots of hurdles to get over but, finally, crews took advantage of a low tide to recover the wreckage last week, lodged in a cave near the Manzanita Coast.

“When we got out there, we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, this really is,’” Williams said.

Crews found 13 pieces of timber which they believe to be from the Santo Cristo De Burgos. The timber was difficult to access, and one piece weighed hundreds of pounds. The local sheriff’s department helped with the recovery. It was a race against a rising tide.

“The last few timbers, I ended up staying behind to get those bundled up so I had to swim out to the jet ski because I got trapped where I couldn’t get out any other way,” archaeologist Stacy Owen said.

Based on the type of wood and the size of the pieces, Williams says he’s 90% sure this is the wreckage of the missing galleon. Archaeologists say the wood is a tropical hardwood not native to Oregon, and radiocarbon dating will determine when the wood was harvested.

“The Spanish searched for it for years and couldn’t find it, and we now know the reason they couldn’t find it is it wrecked up here,” Williams said. “They were searching the western pacific and down around Mexico.”

The pieces recovered last week are just part of the ship. Archaeologists are still hoping to find more in the waters and ask anyone out in the area who finds something not to move the pieces themselves.

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