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The Vigo Bay Treasure Galleons

vigo bay treasure galleons

The naval Battle of Vigo Bay (or Battle of Rande) was fought on 23 October 1702 (12 October in the Julian calendar then in use in England) during the War of the Spanish Succession at Vigo Bay in Galicia (Spain) between an Anglo-Dutch fleet commanded by Admiral Sir George Rooke, and a combined French and Spanish fleet commanded by Admirals Fran�ois Louis Rousselet de Chateau-Renault and Manuel de Velasco.

Rooke had been sent with a large Anglo-Dutch force to capture C�diz in Spain but retreated in defeat on 29 September 1702. When the returning fleet put in to water at Lagos, Portugal, Rooke learned that the 1702 Spanish treasure fleet, one of the richest ever assembled, had sailed on 24 July from Havana, Cuba, and had been diverted from Cadiz to Vigo, where it had arrived on 23 September.

Determined to salvage something from the disaster at C�diz, Rooke set out for Vigo, where he found that the treasure fleet was protected by a Franco-Spanish fleet of about 30 ships. Chateau-Renault had fortified the harbour by laying a boom of masts, covered by guns from forts in the town and on the island of San Sim�n, near the town of Redondela. On October 23 Rooke attacked, sending Admiral Thomas Hopsonn on the Torbay to break the boom, and landing the soldiers of the Duke of Ormonde to capture the forts.

The battle was a complete victory for Rooke: the forts were captured, Torbay broke through the boom, and all the Spanish and French ships were burned by their own side, run aground or captured. The French and Spanish suffered about 2,000 killed; the English and Dutch about 800. The victors recovered silver to the value of about �14,000, but a far larger sum - perhaps three million pounds - had been unloaded and taken away before the battle.

British guinea coins of 1703 bear the word VIGO to commemorate the battle.

vigo bay treasure galleons vigo bay treasure galleons
The Battle of the Bay of Vigo, as pictured in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Hetzel edition) Captain Nemo and his companions gather the treasure of Vigo

Treasure hunters believe that some of the treasure may still lie at the bottom of the bay. This belief was incorporated into the plot of Jules Verne's novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, with Captain Nemo and his crew obtaining money by salvaging amongst the wrecks.

Ships involved

England (George Rooke)

Torbay 80 (flag of VA Hopson, captain Andrew Leake)
Mary 60/70
Grafton 70
Kent 70
Monmouth 70
Berwick 70
Essex 70
Swiftsure 70
Ranelagh 80
Somerset 80
Bedford 70
Cambridge 80
Northumberland 70
Orford 70
Pembroke 60
some frigates
some bomb ketches
10 fire ships

Netherlands

Dordrecht
Zeven Provincien
Velue
Muyde
Holland
Unie
Reygersburgh
Gouda
Alkmaar
Catwyck

France (Ch�teau-Renault)

Fort(e) 76 (flag) - Burnt
Solide 56 - Burnt
Prudent 62/64 - Burnt
Oriflamme 64 - Burnt
Dauphin(e) 44/46 - Burnt
Esp�rance 70 - Aground
Sir�ne 60/62 - Aground
Superbe 70 - Aground
Volontaire 46 - Aground
Prompt(e) 76 - Captured
Assur� 66 - Captured
Bourbon 68 - Captured
Ferme 72/74 - Captured
Mod�r� 54/56 - Captured
Triton 42 - Captured
Entreprenant 24 (frigate) - Burnt
Choquante 8 (frigate) - Burnt
Favori (fireship/frigate?) - Burnt
some fire ships

Spain (Velasco y Tejada)

Jes�s-Mar�a-Jos� 70 - Captured, sunk/aground
Bufona 54 - Captured, sunk/aground

17 galleons and 3 corvettes - 9 captured, 2 destroyedPrivacy and Cookie Policy