Captain Morgan & Panama

FOX News and others are reporting the Wreck of Capt. Morgan’s Pirate Ship Found . . .

The lost wreckage of a ship belonging to 17th century pirate Captain Henry Morgan has been discovered in Panama, said a team of U.S. archaeologists — and the maker of Captain Morgan rum.

Near the Lajas Reef, where Morgan lost five ships in 1671 including his flagship “Satisfaction,” the team uncovered a portion of the starboard side of a wooden ship’s hull and a series of unopened cargo boxes and chests encrusted in coral.

The cargo has yet to be opened, but Captain Morgan USA — which sells the spiced rum named for the eponymous pirate — is clearly hoping there’s liquor in there.

“There’s definitely an irony in the situation,” Fritz Hanselmann an archaeologist with the River Systems Institute and the Center for Archaeological Studies at Texas State University and head of the dive team told KVUE Austin. The Captain Morgan rum group stepped in on the quest for Captain Morgan after team — which found a collection of iron cannons nearby — ran out of funds before they could narrow down the quest.

The new funding allowed the team to do a magnetometer survey, which looks for metal by finding any deviation in the earth’s magnetic field.

“When the opportunity arose for us to help make this discovery mission possible, it was a natural fit for us to get involved. The artifacts uncovered during this mission will help bring Henry Morgan and his adventures to life in a way never thought possible,” said Tom Herbst, brand director of Captain Morgan USA, in a statement.

In the 17th century, Captain Henry Morgan sailed as a privateer on behalf of England, defending the Crown’s interests and pioneering expeditions to the New World. In 1671, in an effort to capture Panama City and loosen the stronghold of Spain in the Caribbean, Morgan set out to take the Castillo de San Lorenzo, a Spanish fort on the cliff overlooking the entrance to the Chagres River, the only water passageway between the Caribbean and the capital city.

Although his men ultimately prevailed, Morgan lost five ships to the rough seas and shallow reef surrounding the fort.

The underwater research team included archaeologists and divers from Texas State University, volunteers from the National Park Service’s Submerged Resources Center and NOAA/UNC-Wilmington’s Aquarius Reef Base. And pirate booty or no, they said the story of Captain Henry Morgan was the real treasure.

“To us, the ship is the treasure — the story is the treasure,” Hanselman told MSNBC’s Alan Boyle. “And you don’t have a much better story than Captain Henry Morgan’s sack of Panama City and the loss of his five ships.”

Artifacts excavated by the dive team in 2010, including the six cannons, as well as any future relics will remain the property of the Panamanian government and will be preserved and displayed by the Patronato Panama Viejo.

Hopefully Panama won’t “lose” the relics from Captain Morgan in the same way they “lost” the probable remains of one of Christopher Columbus’ boats!

Were Morgan still around I’m sure that he could have gotten to bottom of the disappearance of Columbus’ boat!

Morgan has an interesting history. Henry Morgan was born in 1635. We know little about his early life but in 1667 he was commissioned as a privateer. Now we often think of these guys setting forth with a single ship, but often they left with a whole fleet of ships. Morgan set out With 10 ships and 500 men and attacks Jamaica and eventually establishes his base at Port Royal, Jamaica. And he goes on to attack Portobello, Panama.

1669 sacks Maracaibo, Venezuela and is made commander-in-chief of all the ships of war in Jamaica by the English crown with a commission to levy war on the Spaniards and destroy their ships and stores – the booty gained in the expedition being the only pay. Riding high in 1667 again attacks and burns Portobelo which was where much of the treasure from the New World was collected and stored to await the Spanish Fleet that would take it all back to Spain. After Portobelo Morgan and his troops march through the jungle across Panama to take what was then the richest city in the world. Well it turned out that in Morgan’s absence England had signed a peace treaty with Spain, which Morgan had violated by sacking Portobello and Panama City. So Morgan was arrested and taken back to England, but he managed to prove that he didn’t get the email and didn’t know about the treaty, so in 1674 he was knighted and became Lt Governor of Jamaica.

By 1681 he was out of favor with the Crown and suspended and fades into obscurity. About all we know about his later life is that he was in poor health and a heavy drinker who died in 1688 probably of liver failure due to his heavy drinking.

So why would you name a brand of rum “Captain Morgan”? Beats me . . . but the stuff is good, damn good! Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum is one of my favorites, but I can’t seem to find it in Panama. For a while there was something called Panama Jack’s Spiced Rum that was every bit as good as Captain Morgan’s for about half the price, but that seems to have disappeared. So I’ve had to resort to making my own! And it is good . . . every bit as good as the Captain’s and a whole lot less expensive. Want my recipe? Here’s the recipe for Richard’s Spice Rum and it’s free . . . and above all, it’s good!

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