New history of a little-known and unusual subject by the acclaimed author of The Pirate Wars
'Earle's tireless research in the archives has produced a rich harvest of documents - reports, log-books, commissions of enquiry, court depositions, and so on - from which stories of genuine human interest emerge.'
The Sunday Telegraph
Treasure Hunt is the story of a national obsession. Dreams of Spanish treasure, of unearned gold at the bottom of the sea, have been a part of the English psyche since long before effective diving equipment was invented.
In 1687 Captain William Phips weighed anchor in English waters with an incredible cargo – nearly forty tons of silver and gold, the treasure of the Spanish galleon Concepción, wrecked over forty years before on a coral reef in the middle of the ocean. This treasure in coins and bullion had been raised by naked divers, unaided by breathing equipment. The great British treasure-hunting boom had begun.
Over the next two hundred years, many such adventures, most based on extremely dubious information, were begun, with many fortunes and lives lost in the process. The real boom for underwater treasure hunting took place in the 1690s, with the invention of crude, very dangerous diving equipment. And, with the advent of the stock market, gambling and treasure-hunting became closely connected to the birth of modern capitalism.
In the 18th and 19th centuries treasure hunting became a professional occupation, with a new breed of diver emerging to salvage the wrecks of English and Dutch East-Indiamen carrying treasure to finance purchases in Asia. World-renowned naval historian Peter Earle returns with an extraordinary and little-known history of a peculiarly English phenomenon – of outstanding bravery, of exceptional recklessness, and above all, of dreams of treasure.