Nuestra Señora de Atocha (Our Lady of Atocha in English) was one of the galleons that were part of the "Terra Firma Fleet" in 1622. This fleet, like those of New Spain, Honduras and the South Sea, was made up of a group of vessels to transport freight and passengers and for the protection of the convoy. These ships were used to send many products to Spain every year, in particular precious metals from American mines.Salto de línea In August 1622, after a stop in Portobelo and Cartagena de Indias to exchange the European cargo for the American one, the fleet reached the port of Havana, from which it set sail back to Spain.
Nuestra Señora de Atocha, the flagship, sailed at the very rear of the fleet as a protective measure. She was armed with 20 cannons and, together with the galleon Santa Margarita, carried much of the wealth destined for the capital: over 7,000 ounces of gold bullion or discs, 1,000 bars of silver, 230,000 silver coins and 15 tons of copper from Cuba. She also carried pearls from Venezuela, emeralds and 47 tons of wrought silver, 350 chests of indigo and 525 bales of tobacco. In addition she carried contraband, estimated at nearly 20% of the total load.Salto de línea On 6 September, two days after setting sail, a hurricane caused eight ships to sink off the Florida Keys; among them was the galleon Atocha.Salto de línea Rescue operations began immediately and, although they did not stop until 1688 – the year in which the Casa de Contratación, or House of Trade, officially recognised her as lost – only two cannon muzzles and a few silver ingots were recovered. Between 1985 and 1986 the remains of the galleon were found, together with most of the cargo she was transporting.