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1733 Plate Fleet

November 17th, 2015 by Piper Smith

Immediately following Columbus’ discovery of America in the late 15th century, Spanish explorers began charting new territories and claiming them in the name of Spain. As they discovered precious metals among the vast natural resources of the New World, the Americas- particularly the central and southern regions- literally became a goldmine. Mining operations were established from Mexico to Peru and elaborate procedures for the transport of tremendous riches- both over land and overseas- became the all consuming imperative. By the 1700s, a veritable river of silver bars was flowing back to Spain. The ships carrying this treasure came to be known as the “Plate Fleets”, most likely derived from the Spanish word “plata”, meaning silver. While precious convoys had fallen prey to the ferocious storms along the Florida coast, it was the Plate Fleet disasters of 1715 and 1733 that proved most catastrophic for Spain. With the loss of the 1733 Plate Fleet and the untold millions in treasure it carried, the Spanish economy teetered toward bankruptcy and collapse. Once the most powerful nation in the world, Spain would never regain the position of power and military might it had previously enjoyed.