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Spanish Treasure Hunting At
The Mysterious Tres Puentes

The identity of the Tres Puentes has never been clarified, so she goes by this moniker which means Three Decks.

Even though her identity is a mystery, it's known with certainty that she was part of the 1733 Spanish Treasure Fleet.

This wreck is one of 2 possible ships that sailed with the ill fated 1733 Flota.

The Nuestra Senora de los Dolores y Sante Isabel was a 296 ton merchant vessel also referred to as El Nuevo Londres. This vessel was captained by Antonio de Loaysa.

The other possibility is that she is the 212 ton merchant ship named Nuestra Senora de Belem y San Juan Bautista, that was captained by Diego de la Corte y Andrade.

When the strong Florida hurricane hit, this merchant ship was traveling in the middle of the Flota. She was forced westward, past the Florida reefs and into the shallow depths of Hawks Channel.

Taking on heavy seas, this three deck ship severely grounded, and went down fully submerged in 18 feet of water.

Wreck Diving Conditions

There are no markers or buoys at this site. However, she's relatively easy to find as she lies close to the Herrera, about 2.5 miles offshore of Whale Harbor, Islamorada, south of Snake Creek Bridge.

Whale Harbor Channel

Tres Puentes Lies Off Whale Harbor Channel Near Herrera Wreck

If you're a novice diver, the added bonus to Key Largo diving this area, is that there are 3 easy scuba diving sites located close together. The Tres Puentes, the Herrera and the Chaves.

According to Spanish manifests this merchant vessel carried silver coins, sugar, spices, tobacco, tanned hides, wood, indigo and fruit. Most of this type of cargo would have been severely damaged by the water when the ship sank. However the crew would have been able to salvage some of her less perishable cargo.

The fact that there could still be Spanish treasure out there is enticing to anyone scuba diving Florida Keys but this ship is in Sanctuary Water and you cannot remove any artifacts found.

Even though the old Spanish wrecks lack the substantial structure diver's love to explore, their drawing card is the potential promise of finding an unusual and artifact or Spanish coin.

Over the years, this wreck diving site has yielded up pewter, gold medallions, coins, and silver ingots. However, as the years have passed, finding additional artifacts has gotten harder and the reasons are many.

The area has become picked over so there's not as much Spanish treasure left. Any remaining artifacts have continued to sink deeper into the sand making salvage attempts more challenging. Sea grasses have grown up over some of the area, again camouflaging the hiding spots of any artifacts that once belonged to the Tres Puentes.

For the treasure hunting photographer, this makes it rather like looking for a needle in a haystack. Not only do you have the previously mentioned challenges working against you, there are the forces of nature at work. You're underwater, sometimes with limited visibility and often in a heavy current. You move the sand away, it washes back, and the cycle repeats.

To beat the odds, if you're planning on looking for any Spanish treasure you'll need to be properly outfitted. Metal detectors can help you find possibly valuable items buried beneath the sand.

A sharp tool to gently probe and dig will be necessary. Some sort of fan-like device to keep the sand from moving back over your work area will be beneficial.

You may also find it more productive to check areas that have structure because artifacts may have wedged there. They won't have been swept away by the current, and moved further from the wreck site. They also may have been harder to find by earlier treasure seekers, possibly upping the anti.

Check around and under the ballast stones, and carefully examine the patches of grass without damaging the area. When working, remember that this wreck diving site is home to a variety of marine life - you don't want to degrade it unnecessarily on your treasure hunt.

At-A-Glance Wreck Diving Description
And GPS Coordinates

Wreck Name
Tres Puentes (Three Decks) is thought to be the Nuestra Senora de Belem y San Juan Bautista OR the Nuestra Senora de los Dolores Y Santa Isabel also called El Nuevo Londres
About 2.5 miles offshore of Whale Harbor, Islamorada, south of Snake Creek Bridge
GPS Coordinates
24 53.612N 080 35.012W
Dive Site Description
This is a Sanctuary Preservation Area so any artifacts you find cannot be removed. The ships ballast stone and pieces of timber are primarily what's left
Marine Life
Grassy seabed, fire coral, puffers, tangs, skates, gobies, and conch

When scuba diving Florida Keys you always come upon the unexpected. Sometimes it's a moray eel popping out of a cave, or a nurse shark looking for a hand out. Often it's brilliant coral, or colorful schools of tropical fish brightening the area around you. Occasionally, with some luck, it's even a worthwhile piece of Spanish treasure.

You never know what you'll discover, but when diving the Tres Puentes, you may get more than you bargained for. There's a piece of history out there waiting for someone to discover her name, perhaps you'll be the one who finds it.

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Local Weather Zip Codes

Key Largo - 33037
Marathon - 33050
Key West - 33040