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Rincón Shipwreck

Texas A&M University's Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation (CMAC) is preparing the excavation of the Rincón Shipwreck in cooperation with Puerto Rico's Instituto de Investigaciones Costaneras (IIC), the Consejo para la Conservación y Estudio de Sitios y Recursos Arqueológicos Subacuáticos, the University of Puerto Rico, and the Historic Preservation Office.

This project was possible through the generous support of Mr. Charles Consolvo and the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, the Spain-USA Foundation, Dr. and Mrs. Peter Amaral, and CMAC.


Discovered and partially salvaged in de mid-1980s, this shipwreck may be English and can be dated to the second half of the 17th century.

At the time of its trove it was hypothesized that these were the remains of the ship Defiance, part of a small fleet of English royalists under the command of Prince Rupert of the Rhine, which had to resort to piracy during the period of the English Commonwealth (1649-1660). The historic interest of this shipwreck would be that Prince Maurice (Moritz Pfalzgraf von der Pfalz, 1621-2652), younger brother of Prince Rupert, lost his life in this shipwreck. Prince Maurice was the son of Frederick V, Elector of the Palatinate, and Princess Elizabeth, sister of king Charles I of England, beheaded on January 30th 1649.

Remains of the ship Defiance were said to have washed ashore "upon the Southward side of the Island [of Puerto Rico]" where "they found a shipp cast away and several pieces of the wreck came ashore; and amongst the rest a Goulden Lyon wch some of them saw and a great quantitie of pipestaves markt MP as all Prince maurice his cask[s] were."

Site map made by the finders in the 1980s.

This hypothesis is plausible, but far from proven. The last known position of the Defiance is indicated in the figure below, 70 nautical miles to the north of Sombrero Island, quite far away from the Rincon shipwreck site.

We believe, however, that this shipwreck can be English and date to the period 1640-1670.

In fact, a number of pewter plates were found on this site, of which one carried the mark of Nicholas Kelk (d.1687), who had a pewter shop in London and in 1641 "was allowed an extra apprentice to replace one serving in the army". His mark is dated to 1640-1670.

Hypothetical path of Defiance, from the last known position to the purported shipwreck site.

Moreover, at least one gun was raised from the site and it looks English and fits the pattern for guns of this period, and all the surviving artifacts seem to suggest a date around the middle of the 17th century for the loss of this ship.

An astrolabe dated to 1616 has been found on this shipwreck site and is the most interesting artifact found on this site so far. (See Gustavo Garcia Ortiz)

Most artifacts have since disappeared. We are currently in the process of building relationships with the persons that could know where they are, and we believe that once the project begins and we are allowed to gain the trust of some of the people involved in the 1980s salvage operations, it may be possible to recover at least part of the artifacts with no market value that may still subsist, and perhaps some information about the site as it was found, prior to its disturbance.


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Last Updated: 10/14/08