Tuesday, 12 February 2013

The Flor de la Mar Treasure

The Flor de la Mar (Flower of the Sea) was a 400 ton Portuguese carrack (frigate) built in Lisbon during 1502 for traveling from Portugal to India and back. It was twice the size of other ships that had gone on the run.

The Flor’s service life had been long for a ship on the India run. Built for only three or four years of work, she lasted from 1502-1511. However, her design made her dangerously unseaworthy when fully loaded, and her service in various campaigns had necessitated many repairs.

In command of the Flor was Alfonso de Albuquerque. Alfonso was a Portuguese fidalgo, or nobleman, whose titles included Duke of Goa and Governor of Portuguese India. His successes in conquest were many and his bounty and tribute massive.

It was the largest treasure ever assembled by the Portuguese navy, and included 60 tons of gold from the house of the Sultan of Malacca. Supposedly, 200 gem chests were filled with diamonds, rubies and emeralds. Accompanied by four other ships, the Flor set sail for Portugal in November, 1511.
A violent storm blew up in the Straits of Malacca and the heavily overloaded Flor de la Mar was shipwrecked on the reefs near the Straits, just northeast of Sumatra on the 20th of November 1511. The ship broke in two and although Alfonso was saved, the treasure was lost to the waves. The exact location of the shipwreck is confused due to the inaccurate maps of the time. It is considered the richest treasure yet to be found.