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   At best count there were 11 major ships plus a small Cuban "Frigatilla" within the fleet when it left Havana harbor. General Ubilla had purchased a small new Cuban boat to help transport some of the general cargo back to Spain, and several references to 12 ships in the fleet possibly include this vessel. On July 29,1715 the first signs of bad weather came up out of the Northeast, and General Ubilla conferred with his pilot to determine the best course to steer At the time they were approaching the narrowest part of the Bahama Channel, with barely 50 miles separating the Bahamian out-islands from the Florida coast. If they were to shorten sail they would lose the ability to clear the Bahama's before a storm struck. But, if the storm struck suddenly they could lose their sails completely. It was decided to try and reach the head of the Bahama Banks under full sail before the bad weather closed in on them. As the winds began to howl Ubilla decided to lower some of the sails, but Regla still had not cleared the northern-most out islands, and the fleet was strung out on both sides behind his Capitana. The mountainous waves fetching across the broad expanse of ocean to the northeast caught the frail ships and soon they were being driven relentlessly towards the dragon's teeth. The hurricane swept across them and as the seamen scrambled aloft to take in the rest of the sails, two of Regla's crewmen were swept over the side and lost. By 2 A.M the highest winds of the hurricane struck, and in the black of night with white water waves roiling around in all directions the ship was helpless. The officers, crew, and passengers turned to confession and prayer. It was of no avail and the sound of booming breakers warned them they were nearing the Florida reefs. Ubilla's ship was being driven ashore 37 miles south of Cape Canaveral. The Regla struck bottom with such force that the hull sheared at its 2nd gun deck. The lower hull wedged against the 3rd reef 900 feet offshore, while the upper decks seemed to disintegrate towards shore scattering cannon and debris into the trough between the first and second reef line, and much of her treasure as well. Over 700 lives were lost as each of the 11 ships came ashore or were lost at sea without a trace, including General Ubilla. The responsibility of pulling the survivors together and attempting to salvage some of the treasure fell on the shoulders of Admiral Salmon.
He organized two major salvage camps, one opposite the Almiranta San Roman several miles to the south, and the other opposite Regla, 2 miles south of today's Sebastian Inlet. The Regla campsite stretched nearly 3000 feet along the sand dunes and mangroves between the ocean and the river. A fresh water well was located near the narrowest part of the island a few hundred yards north of the wreck-site. The campsite was broken up into a number of clearings with room for 50-60 survivors in each clearing, but many of the women and children spent much of their time buried up to their necks in sand to keep from being bitten by the swarms of mosquitos. In 1961 it was this fresh water well, located by Kip Wagner's dog, that led Kip to the main campsite. Once located, he knew the wreck-site had to be close by. Swimming off the beach with fins and face mask on a clear water day, he found it, a ballast pile and several cannon just beyond the first reef. The rest is history and is documented in Kip's book "Pieces of Eight". 
    During the 1961-62 first salvage years on the site, Kip's group recovered 4000 silver pieces of eight, and a conglomerate containing approximately 2000 more pieces of eight. It was near the end of the diving season in November, 1962 that Kip's nephew, Rex Stocker found the now famous "Dragon's Whistle". It was a gold whistle in the shape of a dragon, with an ear wax spoon at the tail, and a folding curved tooth pick. It was on the end of a flowered gold chain 11 feet in length, and it was found near the sand dune line 100 feet from the water's edge.
The find was enough to generate a full scale assault on the "Cabin Site" named because of the cabin at the time somewhat remote, located opposite the site. Kip received permission to use the  wooden cabin and he fixed it up with double bunk beds and stored their diving equipment there.
   During bad weather, with their boat tied up to the dock, the group would swim out through the surf and scour the crevices of the first reef looking for artifacts. A number were found, including the silver moth bottle stopper that Del Long recovered and was later pictured in National Geographic when they featured the 1715 fleet. In 1963 they found their first gold coins, 23 of them, a gold ring and a stack of K'ang Hsi Chinese porcelain cups. They thought they had hit it big, but they were not prepared for the 1965 salvage season! The coins that year weren't counted...they could only be weighted and

 

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References

"Sunken Treasure On Florida Reefs,"  by Robert "Frogfoot" Weller

For additional information see:  "Galleon Hunt,"  "Shipwrecks Near Wabasso Beach,"  "Salvaging Spanish Sunken Treasure,"  "Famous Shipwrecks of the Florida Keys."  by Robert "Frogfoot" Weller

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