Expedition Unknown – Captain Morgan’s Lost Gold – S01E07

imageMost people would associated Captain Morgan with a rather festive tasting rum, but he was indeed a real person and by many accounts, the most successful privateer in history. And just to make the point, the difference between a pirate and a privateer is that the privateer is actually sponsored, usually by a government while the pirate is in it for the personal gain. Now that we have that distinction made, let’s see what we have going on.

Captain Henry Morgan amassed a large fortune looting gold from Spain. His main area of operation was Panama where the Spanish would load gold and transport it over to Portobello where it would set sail to Spain in Galleons. Morgan’s plan was to seize the city and nab the gold. Morgan was a good commander, but not really a good navigator. During his nautical days he sunk at least three ships. When Morgan decided to take the port of Portobello, he actually landed three miles away and took the city by foot. He held it hostage and declared he would burn it to the ground if he wasn’t paid to leave. Quite an interesting strategy, yet it worked and he was paid to leave the city alone.

This was merely the first stop on his world domination tour and soon he was down the road at San Lorenzo where the stormed the beach and lost five ships. This is where they believe his flagship Satisfaction is believe to have been wrecked. Morgan then flees on foot with his remaining crew and works his way back to Panama City.

The Satisfaction is believed to have gone down with a fortune in treasure on board. It is thought to have hundreds of treasure chests on board. Researchers have found dozens of wrecked ships in the area and are still looking for Morgan’s vessel. As you may expect, Josh hooks up with the team and explores the waters. They have made multiple discoveries of different wrecks and have pulled up a few items of note, including a large treasure chest. They take Josh out and after sweeping back and forth, they find a site worth looking into. They suit up and into the water they go.

It is indeed a wrecked ship, but turns out to be something much more modern than what they are looking for. Oh Josh you naughty tease! But wait, all is not lost. They head to another site and find something much more exciting. There are dozens of encrusted treasure chests lying on the sand floor. They’ve been there for hundreds of years and would be from the right time period as Morgan. They manage to grab a couple of small items including what looks to be a mule shoe. This would be good news as mules would have been used to transport the looted gold.

With air in their tanks running low and a storm looming on the horizon, it’s time to head out and continue in the tracks of Morgan.

Before the Panama Canal was built, Morgan would had to have used a small river which connected the two oceans. It is said he took his crew through this area in order to reach Panama City again. He took a small amount of supplies believing he could beg, borrow or steal what he needed along the way. This didn’t work out so well as he met up with local tribes who were none to willing to part with what they had. Josh speaks with some of the local tribes and their attitude toward Morgan is less than kind. It is said he pillaged, looted, killed, tortured and much worse to the natives he came across. To put it simply, he’s not held in high regard.

Josh keeps on the move and eventually heads back to Panama City. In Morgan’s final raid on the city it is actually set fire and burnt to the ground. Only one building and some rubble remain of the original city. This confirms some of the thinking that he was nothing more than a pirate.

Meanwhile, Josh links back up with the archeology team and their artifacts and help transport them over to a radiology lab where they can be scanned to see the contents. They identify two of the pieces which look to be a mule shoe and the tip of scabbard. The chest is simply too thick for them to get a scan of the contents. I’m sure we’re all thinking they should just take a crowbar to that chest and be done with it, but that’s not how saving artifacts works.

After digging deeper it doesn’t appear these relics are from Morgan or the Satisfaction, but instead from a ship called the Encarnacion which is still a ship from the 17th century and would have been used to explore the Western Hemisphere. Not a ship loaded with gold, but still a ship of historical significance.

So, not quite the treasure chests full of gold we were all hoping for, but an exciting and picturesque adventure nonetheless. Piracy took on many different forms, but it’s hard to argue that there are plenty of sunken ships in the waters of Panama. It’s also clear there is plenty of wreckage to sift through with a lot of that looking like real treasure chests. Do those chests have gold in them? Are they full of plundered trinkets and gems? It’s hard to say what mysteries they contain, but they contain something and with a bit more work and discovery these teams might soon be able to give us an answer.

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