Dave Horner, 290 pages, Sheridan House, 1999
Review by Marjorie Pratt
The cold was unbearable. The incessant noise created terror and fear. The sea water now covering my feet. I noticed a hatch floating alongside. The current literally brought me to it. I jumped quickly and clumsily in its direction. My body weight sent me plummeting. I sank unfalteringly beneath the water but was not submerged long. I soon found myself being squeezed between some brackets and planks. This is where I nearly drowned. Totally terrified because of my inability to swim I managed somehow to maneuver, squirming and struggling with all my strength, to achieve an upright attitude on the miserable piece of wood, now my temporary salvation.
As I clung to the hatch cover the entire sterncastle of the MARAVILLAS, all three decks of it, crashed into a tumbling fall, astern to starboard. The weight of many of the passengers as they scrambled to the poop, resulted in a splintering crash as the deck broke away. The tower of breaking wood sent horrified and screaming people sprawling into the sea in every direction....I cried a soft prayer, knowing death would soon come.
Padre Diego was a passenger aboard the MARAVILLAS. The vessel was en route from Havana to Spain when it was struck broadside by another vessel in the convoy, holed badly and took on water. The passengers rushed to the highest point of the vessel, aft, to the deck at the stern. The water overcame and filled the doomed vessel Recorded in his diary is the harrowing struggle to stay afloat on a piece of a hatch cover broken away as the MARAVILLAS went down. He was one of only 45 passengers who survived.
Part of the eyewitness account of the sinking in 1654 of the 900 ton galleon, the Nuestra Senora de las Maravillas from the handwritten diary of Padre Diego Portichuelo de Rivadeneira. The amazing document was part of a shipment of research material sent to Dave Horner, author, diver and adventurer, to further document his book on mid 17th century treasure galleons. Horner has made a diving expedition to the site where the remains of the 900 ton MARAVILLAS rests, just over 40 miles from land on a sandy reef somewhere off Little Bahama Bank.
In the 1600’s, fleets of Spanish vessels carried gold ,silver and jewels from the new world from Peru northward along the rugged South American coast to Perico , the Port of Panama. Donkeys carried the cargoes of vycuna, cocoa and treasure to the west side of the Isthmus to Portobelo and loaded aboard galleons to set sail for Spain.