Well, you can’t cry over spilt gold. On September 23, 1641 the Merchant Royal sank off Land’s End, Cornwall in rough seas, taking with it at least 100,000 pounds of gold worth nearly $1 billion in today’s money, 400 bars of silver worth about $1 million, and nearly 500,000 pieces of eight and other coins. It’s one of the most valuable shipwrecks of all time.
The ship had spent the previous three years trading with Spanish colonies in the West Indies. When she stopped by Cadiz on the way to London in 1641, she was already leaking. Still, the captain pressed on, even taking on additional cargo destined for Antwerp. While crossing the Atlantic, one of the ship’s pumps broke down, and the damaged vessel couldn’t overcome the rough weather off Land’s End. Eighteen men died in the wreck, while 41 (including the captain) managed to escape in boats.
Naturally, there have been attempts to find such a valuable shipwreck. The Odyssey Marine Exploration has been trying to locate it for years, and in 2007 it announced the Black Swan Project, which was the discovery and recovery of nearly $500 million gold and silver coins from a shipwreck thought to be the Merchant Royal. It’s now believed that the wreck was actually a Spanish ship that went down in 1804. The location of the Merchant Royal remains a mystery.