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The Last Voyage of the Frigate Mercedes. A Cultural Treasure recovered

The Last Voyage of the Frigate Mercedes. A Cultural Treasure recovered

Four Spanish frigates – Medea, Mercedes, Fama and Clara – laden with bullion for the Spanish crown, under the command of the expert seaman Don José Bustamante, were sailing from Montevideo to the coasts of Cadiz. They were intercepted and attacked off Cape St Vincent, south of Portugal, by four English frigates which, despite the existing peace treaties between the two nations, were lying in wait for them to prevent the riches from falling into the hands of Napoleon, their most feared enemy. When the Spanish commanders refused to accompany them to any non-Spanish port, Sir Graham Moore launched the attack, with barely any time to negotiate and seek an alternative that did not involve bloodshed. During the unexpected combat the Spanish frigate Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes violently exploded and instantly sank. Two hundred and sixty-three people died in the explosion or subsequently drowned. The loss of this frigate, which was carrying many passengers – among them the wife and children of the second-in-command, Don Diego Alvear – swung the combat in favour of the English ships, which eventually captured the three Spanish frigates and escorted them under arrest to Great Britain.
 

Two hundred and three years on from this historic event, which led directly to the declaration of war on England that December, the ‘treasure hunting’ firm Odyssey Marine Exploration located and plundered part of this frigate’s cargo, illegally transporting it to Tampa (Florida) in 2007. More than 500,000 silver and gold coins, in addition to a few remains of objects belonging to the crew, make up the rich archaeological treasure extracted from the sunken wreck that lay at a depth of 1,500 metres beneath the sea. This gave rise to a lengthy lawsuit in which the US courts finally ruled in favour of the Spanish state, acknowledging its rights to these assets and ordering their immediate return to Spain. The case sets an important international precedent in the defence of Underwater Archaeological Heritage.

The main purpose of this exhibition is to make these assets known and available to society as part of a heritage that belongs to it. The exhibition project aims to go beyond the economic worth of the coins extracted by conveying the cultural values of these objects, which are protected by law as part of Spain’s Historic Heritage. The argument is structured into seven main areas:

- Spain, Europe and the Americas around 1800
- The last mission of the frigate Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes
- The fighting off Cape St Vincent
- Riches, earnings and goods
- An unrecoverable history
- The legal proceedings in defence of Underwater Cultural Heritage
- History as an objective: protecting Underwater Cultural Heritage

The layout seeks a perfect balance between displaying the historic objects, archaeological items and original documents that connect the different sections and the use of exhibition resources designed to convey the content most effectively to visitors: large-format audio-visual presentations, models, backdrops, computer graphics, mapping and lighting effects, interactive displays, aquariums and augmented reality.
 

La Fragata Mercedes. Recreation and Exhibition




Making of the exhibition

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El último viaje de la Fragata Mercedes (eBook)
eBooks

El último viaje de la Fragata Mercedes (eBook)

  • Type: Exhibition catalogue
This book was published on the occasion of the exhibition, with the same name, that publicly showed the objects and the history of the frigate Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes. The book analyzes through 33 articles from experts in various themes related to the history, the discovery, restoration and legal disputes that led to the recovery of this illustrious ship by Spain.

Avalaible in Spanish PDF version

Summary
- Los bienes arqueológicos subacuáticos como bienes culturales
Jesús Prieto de Pedro
- España gana el caso Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes: un éxito jurídico, histórico y cultural
James A. Goold
- Elisa de Cabo
- El último viaje de la fragata Mercedes. La razón frente al expolio
Susana García Ramírez
- El último viaje de la fragata Mercedes. Un tesoro cultural recuperado
Carmen Marcos Alonso
- El último viaje de la fragata Mercedes: el proyecto expositivo
Carlos León Amores, Carlos Barrot
- La Real Armada en tiempos de la fragata Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes
José María Blanco Núñez
- La “guerra absoluta” y la fragata Mercedes
Agustín Guimerá Ravina
- Sociedad y política en la América española a finales del siglo xviii
Luis Navarro García
- España, el virreinato del Perú y la desarticulación del vínculo imperial. Los procesos económicos de España y Perú en clave comparativa
Dionisio de Haro Romero
- La época más feliz para Montevideo
Alejandro N. Bertocchi Morán
- Tres armadas enfrentadas entre 1789 y 1804. Navíos y fragatas que conoció la Mercedes
Francisco Fernández González
- El arsenal de La Habana en el siglo xviii
Carlos Martínez Shaw, Marina Alfonso Mola
- La Habana y su astillero
Enrique Martínez Ruiz
- Los ingenieros de Marina en La Habana en tiempos de la fragata Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes (1783-1786)
José María Sánchez Carrión
- José Romero Fernández de Landa, primera patente de ingeniero de Marina, y la construcción de la fragata Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes
José María de Juan-García Aguado
- El Callao y la Real Armada
Jorge Ortiz Sotelo
- Azotes sobre un cañón, carreras de baquetas y el honor perdido: autoridad y justicia en los buques de guerra a fines del siglo xviii
Marta García Garralón
- Algo sobre la construcción del modelo de la Mercedes en el Museo Naval de Madrid
Miguel Godoy Sánchez
- La misión de la fragata Mercedes
M.ª Antonia Colomar Albájar
- La voladura de la fragata Mercedes y otras cuestiones políticas y navales
Hermenegildo Franco
- La pérdida de la fragata Mercedes
José Ignacio González-Aller Hierro
- Las monedas de la fragata Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes
Carmen Marcos Alonso, Paloma Otero Morán, Paula Grañeda Miñón
- Los nombres del dinero. Breve historia del real de a ocho
Julio Torres
- Cajas, cajitas, cajones y cajoncitos. Envío de muestras de moneda a la Corte para el control de calidad
Julio Torres
- Pago a los consignatarios del Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes. Deuda de presas inglesas
Alfonso Dávila Oliveda
- El tesoro vegetal de la fragata Mercedes y las expediciones científicas españolas ilustradas
Miguel Ángel Puig-Samper
- Los instrumentos científicos de don Diego de Alvear
Mariano Esteban Piñeiro
- Inmunidad de los buques de Estado y protección del patrimonio cultural subacuático
Margarita Mariscal de Gante y Mirón
- La contribución de los Archivos Estatales a la recuperación de los bienes culturales de la fragata Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes
Severiano Hernández Vicente, Teresa Engenios Martín
- El cargamento de la fragata Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes. Un desafío para la gestión del patrimonio cultural
Enrique Varela Agüí, Reyes Carrasco Garrido
- Fuentes documentales para búsqueda de pecios. El manuscrito de Ledesma
José Antonio González Carrión, Carmen Torres López
- La Armada y el patrimonio cultural naval
Teodoro de Leste
- Arqueólogos y cazadores de tesoros subacuáticos
Xavier Nieto
- Catálogo de obra expuesta Museo Naval
- Catálogo de obra expuesta Museo Arqueológico Nacional
- Bibliografía
- Notas biográficas de los autores

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