Atocha Copper Ingot Found!

The Mel Fisher salvage vessel Dare just found a significant artifact – a 60-pound copper ingot. The crew is digging north of the main pile, blowing with their “mailboxes” for sometimes as much as two hours to get down through 4 feet of hard-packed claylike mud, in 55 feet of water. In some areas, they have blown through the mud, all the way down to bedrock.

The newly-found copper ingot weighed in at 60.5 pounds. A random sample of 50 Atocha copper ingots, found in previous years, gave an average weight of 54.2 lbs.

One of the larger cargos put onboard the Atocha in 1622 for the return voyage to Spain was a 30,000-pound load of copper ingots. 582 copper ingots were loaded onboard the Atocha at Havana, Cuba, the Atocha’s final stop before sailing to Spain. The copper originated from the Cuban mine at Caridad del Cobre, owned by the Spanish crown. Only three ships carried this royal cargo of copper in the 1622 fleet - the Atocha, Santa Margarita and Rosario. The primary reason for shipping copper to Spain was the manufacture of bronze cannons.

This find is significant because it has the same density, weight and size as a silver bar or a chest of silver coins. We are continuing to explore this promising area of the Atocha trail.

These ingots are crudely cast, made by pouring molten copper ore into simple depressions in the ground. All the ingots have highly irregular, bumpy surfaces. None bear markings of any sort. The copper ingots were used as ballast, much as the silver bars and coin chests were.

According to archeologist Corey Malcolm, the copper ingots were being shipped in the Atocha’s lower hold, in a distinct cluster beside the silver bars. The copper was stored near the stern, immediately behind the mainmast, while the silver bars and coin chests were just forward of the mainmast.

In addition to the copper slab, the Dare crew also found two silver coins - an 8 reale and a 4 reale, both in especially good condition because they were found in the deep mud, an environment lacking in oxygen, keeping silver oxidation to a minimum. Lead sheathing, pottery shards and ballast stones were also found nearby.

The crew of the Dare are very excited about what they are finding and are keeping their fingers crossed that the next hole will reveal a chest of silver coins.


The crew of the Dare, holding the newly-found copper ingot and silver coin. –

 (L-R) Captain Papo Garcia, Ivan Fernandez, Parker Redding, Johan Mora, and Tim Dirkes.


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