The presence of a shipwreck in deep waters off the Dry Tortugas, a group of islands located at the westernmost point of the Florida Keys, first gained attention in 1965 when the shrimp trawler Trade Winds snagged in its nets various metal artifacts, pieces of ship’s rigging and an ornately carved railing.

Also ensnared were three large intact pottery amphorae later identified as colonial-era Spanish olive jars used for the storage and shipment of various goods. At the time, the depth of the water made exploration of the site impractical. 

In 1989, the "Tortugas" wreck was located over 405 meters below the ocean surface by  deep-ocean shipwreck exploration pioneers Seahawk Deep Ocean Technology. 

  

The "Tortugas" project was the first deep-ocean remotely-operated archaeological excavation of a shipwreck site to be conducted anywhere in the world. Nearly 17,000 artifacts, including some as small as seeds and pearls, were recovered from the site during the 1990-1991 excavation seasons.

Research suggests that the "Tortugas" wreck is likely the remains of the 117-ton Buen Jesús y Nuestra Señoradel Rosario, one of the vessels sailing with the 1622 Tierra Firme treasure fleet that also included the Nuestra Señora de Atocha and the Santa Margarita,  bound for Spain and all loaded with the wealth of the New World. 

 

Olive Jars on the site
Olive Jars on the site

Olive Jars on the site
Olive Jars on the site

A mariner's astrolabe
A mariner's astrolabe

Olive Jars on the site
Olive Jars on the site

The excavation of the "Tortugas" shipwreck site yielded seventy-six intact Spanish olive jars. These large, rounded ceramic containers were used for storing and transporting goods on the ship. Distinctive markings on the rim or shoulder of several of the olive jars are thought to be the stamp of the merchant whose products were being transported.

The excavation of the "Tortugas" shipwreck site yielded seventy-six intact Spanish olive jars. These large, rounded ceramic containers were used for storing and transporting goods on the ship. Distinctive markings on the rim or shoulder of several of the olive jars are thought to be the stamp of the merchant whose products were being transported.

The excavation of the "Tortugas" shipwreck site yielded seventy-six intact Spanish olive jars. These large, rounded ceramic containers were used for storing and transporting goods on the ship. Distinctive markings on the rim or shoulder of several of the olive jars are thought to be the stamp of the merchant whose products were being transported.

The assemblage of 1,184 silver cob coins in various degrees of degradation found at the "Tortugas" wreck site contains no coins dated later than 1622.

Cobs are the original treasure coin.

A total of 6,838 pearls scattered across the site were recovered from the "Tortugas" wreck through the use of the project’s SeRF sieve system.

The artifact assemblage recovered from the "Tortugas" wreck contains a diversity of 17th-century items indicative of Spanish colonial trade with the Americas towards the end of Spain’s golden age early in the reign of King Philip IV.

The excavation of the "Tortugas" shipwreck site yielded seventy-six intact Spanish olive jars. These large, rounded ceramic containers were used for storing and transporting goods on the ship. Distinctive markings on the rim or shoulder of several of the olive jars are thought to be the stamp of the merchant whose products were being transported.