Amelia Research & Recovery, LLC

Jupiter Inlet


In 1987 a Jupiter Beach lifeguard, Peter Leo, first discovered several cannons and anchors at the Jupiter Inlet Wreck Site.  Jupiter Wreck, Inc. (JWI) was formed in 1988, and acquired the necessary permits from the Sate of Florida in 1990 to excavate, about 10 miles north of Palm Beach, Florida.  In the early 1990's the initial search area produced several thousand Spanish pieces-of-eight gold bars, and one large, 80 pound silver bar.  In early 2001 JWI approached Amelia to use the Polly L for JWI's ongoing search for the yet to be found lower portion of the Archangel, our first "shakedown" project.  Amelia recovered more than 200 pieces-of-eight, including one of the rare Lima Stars (prized by collectors and worth more than $5,000).  Additional finding bring us closer to finding the remaining primary cultural deposits in the future.

The Jupiter Beach shipwreck is believed to be the San Miguel Archangel, an aviso, or ship used to carry Royal correspondence, passengers, and special cargos for the King of Spain and Viceroys.  Research in Seville reveals 33 passengers survived, who were found stranded at Jupiter Inlet in 1660 (then known as "Jega" on Spanish charts).  The Archangel is documented to have sailed in 1659 from Havana, Cuba, transporting special chests containing valuables destined for Philip IV, King of Spain.  The silver coins recovered from the wreck site are dated between 1649 and 1659. 

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Learn about other wrecks: JUPITER INLET | AMELIA ISLAND

We believe the Archangel may have indeed carried a personal fortune of the Count of Salvatierra, the corrupt and scandal-ridden Viceroy of Peru, who died in 1658.  His widow, the Countess, is known to have shipped part of her inheritance on the Archangel in anticipation of her return to Spain.

Additional research further revealed the silver bar found at the wreck site was first manifested to a Spanish ship wrecked on the Chanduy reef (Ecuador) in 1656, which the Count of Salvatierra is known to have loaded with contraband treasure.  The Count salvaged some of the treasure in the name of the King from the ship lost on the coast of Ecuador, but underreported the amount recovered and diverting a goodly portion to his own pockets.  The Count Alba de Liste, who became Viceroy after Salvatierra's death, mounted a second recovery expedition of the Chanduy wreck in 1659.  Two hundred fifty thousand pesos were reported to have been recovered in this operation.  The silver bar found at the Jupiter site taken from the Chanduy reef wreck was either part of Salvatierra's plunder from the Chanduy reef wreck, or salvaged by Count Alba de Liste in 1659.  Regardless, the fact this silver bar found its way aboard the Archangel indicates substantial, yet to be discovered treasure was likely on board the Archangel.

As JWI's work on the Archangel wreck site proceeded, it became evident working close to shore with a small boat was not sufficient.  The ballast pile and other artifacts usually found at complete wreck sites were missing, indicating only a portion of the ship (probably the upper deck) has washed ashore.  In addition, in a 1995 beach re-nourishment project, a cutter-dredge was used some 2000 feet offshore to rip through the ocean bottom, and then pump sand shoreward and onto the beach through a system of pipes.  Following the beach re-nourishment, beachcombers found artifacts (pieces of iron with coins attached, pewter bottle tops, etc.), which were sliced in half, indicating the cutter dredge moved through the Archangel's scatter trail.

In 1996, JWI expanded the search area, and began using a larger ship capable of operating further offshore in deeper water to improve the chances of finding the primary cultural deposit.  Using crude calculations to identify a target zone, JWI began trenching the area where the cutter dredge had worked.  The objective was to establish the Archangel's scatter trail from the beach out to sea. In 1996, JWI documented important new evidence in the search for the Archangel, and recovered some 760 pieces-of-eight, together with clumps of coins of all denominations originating from several colonial mints, including several very rare Lima Stars from the illegal 1659 Lima mint established by the Count Alba de Liste.  

Today the remains of the Archangel lay scattered under 10 to 20 feet of water, and 20 feet, or more, of sand, off of modern day Jupiter Inlet.  The remains are scattered along concentrated debris trail believed to begin about a mile offshore leading straight to the beach.  Out to sea, at the end of the trail, buried in the sand, are a ballast pile, what could be a fortune of gold and silver, the yet to be discovered remains of the lower ship's hull.