The Atocha Shipwreck and Salvage Laws, Pt. 5


Maps can convey a great deal of information very easily visually that takes considerable verbiage to write down. The map at the right shows the Caribbean and the general area in which the Atocha sank. You might even recognize the source of this map as being from the National Geographic. Those maps have a distinctive look. This one is from an article, "The Trouble with Treasure," in the July 1976 issue.

One of the Internet resources contains a map of the routes the Spanish Treasure Fleets took annually to transport European goods to the New World, and to carry New World goods and treasure back to Spain to help that country pay her military costs for the Thirty Years' War. This map was copied from the Bruce A Rouch Treasure Hunting page and is being accessed from a local computer.

The best map I've located of the Treasure Fleet routes is from Eugene Lyon's book, "Treasure of the Atocha." It's been scanned into a file that, too, is being locally accessed. This map shows routes the Spanish fleets took, not just from Spain to the Caribbean and back, but also along the Pacific coast of South American, and as far west as Manila to bring treasure back to Spain.

A second map from "Treasure of the Atocha" shows where the wreckage of the Atocha and the Santa Margarita (a second galleon in the same fleet) were found by Mel Fisher. A few weeks after the two ships struck a reef during a hurricane, a second storm hit the site, lifted the Atocha's wreckage off the reef, and deposited it southeast of the point at which she first sank. Artifacts were scattered over a wide area, and the redisposition of the wreck into deeper water contributed significantly to the problem of locating the ship's treasure.

The NCSU Libraries house a number of maps and nautical charts. Many cartogarphic products are also being made available through the Internet. Electronic spacial data available through GIS (Geographic Information Systems) offer great promise in a wide array of research topics. But finding spacial data for a particular area is still a challenge.

The library's GIS expert, Steve Morris, found a Florida Internet site, that of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's GIS operation, that contains a number of DRG (Digital Raster Graphic) files, detailed electronic map data for small areas of the state. Among them is one that displays the area where the Atocha sank, and provides bathymetric data for the site. Steve has made that map, showing the Marquesas Keys, east of the Dry Tortugas at the very end of the Florida Keys, available: Florida DRG.

The file will take a bit of time to load, even though it's on a local computer. The file is 25MB in size. It's being accessed through a program called ArcView, which in turn is being viewed on the web using Internet Map Server. A click on the link above invokes both of these programs to bring up the map's image. You can zoom in on specific targets using the navigation choices of Internet Map Server. Somewhere on this map lies the Atocha.