Book Archive Item

Report of Dr. Blas González de Ribero to King Philip IV
Accession Number
Creation Date
Núñez Melián sent this petition to the crown, impelled by the claims of the owners of some of the silver bars he sent back to Spain from the salvage of the sunken 1622 galleon Santa Margarita. This rare, printed petition from ca.1630, outlines the services of Francisco Núñez Melián in the recovery of the sunken 1622 galleon Santa Margarita. The 14-page document was written by Dr. Blas González de Ribero, Núñez’ attorney, and it gives a good description of the techniques used by Núñez’ crew, especially their use of a bronze diving bell. Ultimately, to stress the expedition’s merit, the petition outlines Núñez’ success and that he recovered “350 silver bars, 74,700 pesos in reales, and 8 pieces of bronze artillery,” from the wreck.

It is understood that only one other copy of this rare, printed petition is extant, at the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid.


30 cm H x 24 cm W , Item (Overall)

Exhibition Label
Report of Doctor Blas Gonzalez de Ribero to King Philip IV Concerning Francisco Nunez Melián's salvage of the 1622 galleon Santa Margarita After the 1622 Tierra Firme galleons met their doom, salvage parties were organized to locate and recover whatever they could from the wrecked ships. The initial attempts by Gaspar de Vargas located both the Atocha and Margarita, but the depths and sea conditions prevented him from recovering much treasure. In 1623, Havana politician Francisco Melián petitioned the crown for a license to salvage the shipwrecks. His proposals were agreed to, and in 1626 he sailed for the Marquesas Keys with divers and a specially constructed diving bell. During the summer of that year his crew met with great success at the site of the Santa Margarita, recovering 350 silver ingots, over 30,000 silver coins, 109 copper ingots, 8 bronze cannon, and other miscellaneous objects. Their efforts were interrupted once during this time by Dutch privateers. In 1627, Melián returned, but was quickly thwarted by hostile Dutch ships once again. Forced to retreat to Havana, he and his divers did not return to the wrecks until 1628. After some slighter salvage success, Melian's political career took precedence. In 1629, he was appointed governor of Caracas, and abandoned his search for the lost galleons. Spanish salvage licenses for the 1622 wrecks were granted for another 50 years, but no one ever matched the success of Melián at the Margarita in 1626. This report, written by an attorney for both the Royal Council and the Inquisition outlines both Núñez Melián's efforts and successes at the shipwreck site. It also offers a legal opinion as to why his work met the requirements of the contract and license, and why Melián should be rewarded. Great detail is given to the techniques used in the recovery efforts, including the pioneering use of the diving bell. It offers information about this aspect of the history of the 1622 ships that is found nowhere else.
Contains a report by Doctor. Blas González de Ribero to King Philip IV concerning Fransisco Núñez Melián's salvage of the 1622 galleon, Santa Margarita.