The Merchant Royal 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. Among the treasure was 100,000lbs of gold, 400 bars of Mexican silver and almost 500,000 ‘pieces of eight’, or Spanish dollars. Dubbed ‘the El Dorado of the seas,’ the Merchant Royal was carrying various artefacts 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.
Richard Larn of Shipwrecks UK said in 2014 that there is a “fabulous treasure” languishing in the sea.
In March last year, a staggering discovery linked to the Merchant Royal was found – an anchor.
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: “Any find like this is exciting, we know the ship was carrying millions of pounds worth of treasure, it would be worth billions in today’s money.
“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.”
He added: “There will be people going after the treasure.
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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.”