Archaeology breakthrough: Mind-blowing discovery from ‘most valuable shipwreck ever’

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The find was a remarkable anchor which was found off the coast of the UK – thought to be from the mysterious shipwreck of The Merchant Royal. The vessel was lost at sea during rough winds off Land’s End in Cornwall, and had been carrying over £1.1billion in treasure in today’s money. Amongst the treasure was 100,000lbs of gold, 400 bars of Mexican silver and almost 500,000 ‘pieces of eight’, or Spanish dollars. The anchor, according to experts, matched that of the Merchant Royal – potentially bringing the most valuable shipwreck ever closer to discovery.

Dubbed ‘the El Dorado of the seas,’ the Merchant Royal was carrying and other coins when she sank.

The loss of the treasure made headlines at the time, with its value back estimated to be equivalent to one-third of the Government’s revenue from taxes in 1641.

Several salvage teams have sought to recover the wreck over the years but have so far been unsuccessful.

The anchor was found by a crew on a fishing vessel in March last year.

Mark Milburn, co-founder of Cornwall Maritime Archaeology, said that he also believed the anchor’s design matches one that the Merchant Royal would have used.

He said: “It’s an admiralty patterned long shank anchor, the right type for the Merchant Royal.

“From what I see in the pictures it is the same design as ones used in the 17th century and there is no stock – a marking etched into an anchor.

“If it did have a stock then it’s not the Merchant Royal because they didn’t have those until 100 years after it sank.”

The discovery also encouraged researchers like Mr Milburn to go in search of the treasure trove that lay somewhere under the water’s surface.

He added: “The spot where it was found is about 300ft (91mt) deep – there are very few people that are qualified to dive that deep.

“It’s a serious dive. It takes a lot of the right equipment and most divers know that.

“You need to be an experienced diver and there isn’t even one percent of divers who could undertake it.”

He added: “There will be people going after the treasure.

“My main concern will be people taking it and not telling anyone. It’s a well-known legend, people know that it’s still out there in deep water.

“Everyone will be after it, won’t they? It was an old wooden ship and the timber gets eaten away and only iron and metal bits will be left.

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“All that will be on the seabed is an anchor, cannons and treasure – so long as no one has taken it already.”

Despite the potential dangers, Mr Milburn said he would go down to look for the gold.

He continued: “I’ll be going out there to have a look, but we’ve got to wait for the right conditions and because the conditions are so treacherous, the window is very narrow.

“The site is exposed and we need the tide to be right and a weekend with no wind. Because of the depth, you don’t get long to look for it.

“It’s dangerous diving. It takes a lot of equipment and most divers know that – you need to be an experienced technical diver.”

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