Sails and stories

It wasn’t such an easy journey, or such a safe one, back in the seventeenth and eighteenth century when Spanish galleons sailed the waters out from the mother country to far flung settlements in the new world. God, gold, and glory, swashbuckling pirates and daring seafarers have made their mark on popular ideas of the time. At The Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee, there’s an exhibit that quietly takes things a bit deeper — in more ways than one.

You can imagine the sails billowing as the ships move along as you look at the sailcloth overhead. There are maps such as the navigators on the ships would have used on the walls, and there is, indeed, gold and sliver, Spanish reals stamped with the royal mark and spilled out as they were found across the ocean floor, centuries after this ship sank in a hurricane off Florida’s coast.

spanish  artifacts copyright kerry dexter
gold from the plate fleet copyrigh kerry dexter
sails copyright kerry dexter

The treasure is always a big draw, with kids and adults alike excited to see these true coins from centuries ago. The museum display goes further, though. Often overlooked as people crowd around the treasure are other things — pottery bowls and jars from the ship’s kitchen, a tools the men worked on the ship with over the long voyage, a crucifix, a chalice, a sewing needle, a button — all as they might have been found on the sea floor, as well, markers of the daily lives of those who sailed the waters centuries ago.

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