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Click the play button above to view a brief history of Urca de Lima. View a transcript (PDF 60KB) of this video.

During the summer of 1715 two Spanish convoys collecting goods from across Central and South America converged in Havana, Cuba and set sail for Spain. Within days of leaving Cuba, these 11 vessels were struck by a fierce hurricane, sending many inshore to wreck along the shallows of the Florida coastline.

Urca de Lima, originally called Santisima Trinidad, obtained its nick name because it was a storeship, or urca, and was owned by Don Miguel de Lima. She was a 305 – ton, Dutch-built vessel, which grounded near present-day Ft. Pierce during the storm, but at the time, was left relatively intact.

Urca de Lima

The urca provided survivors from the other wrecked ships with provisions from her stores until supplies finally arrived from Havana thirty-one days later. Urca de Lima had been heavily laden with general cargo, which included hundreds of uncured cowhides, packets of chocolate, vanilla, sassafras, and other exotic products that brought high prices in Europe.

She was the first of the fleet wrecks to be salvaged by Spanish crews from Havana, but was then burned to the waterline to conceal her position from English freebooters, who also began to arrive at the scene.

Urca de Lima remained forgotten and covered by sand until 1928 when the City of Fort Pierce funded a search to relocate the fleet, and at that time 16 cannons and 4 anchors were raised from the site and put on display around the city.

Urca de Lima

In 1932 the first salvage permit was issued to search for and to recover Spanish treasure. Unfortunately for the salvors, Urca de Lima did not carry the royal treasure they so hoped to find, only private silver in sacks and chests. As a result, salvage efforts were only marginally successful. After many years of searching the last permitee abandoned the site for bigger treasures.

In 1985 Urca de Lima’s surviving hull structure was carefully mapped and recorded by State archaeologists at the request of the St. Lucie County Historical Commission who wanted to have an underwater park. Two years later, in 1987, Florida’s Underwater Archaeological Preserve system was born.

Urca de Lima became the first preserve and in 2001, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.