El Nuevo Constante

Investigation of an Eighteenth-Century Spanish Shipwreck off the Louisiana Coast

Second Edition 1998

Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism

Louisiana Archaeological Survey and Antiquities Commission


Charles E. Pearson

Coastal Environments, Inc.


Paul E. Hoffman

Louisiana State University

Editors Note

El Nuevo Constante: Investigation of an Eighteenth Century Spanish Shipwreck off the Louisiana Coast was first published in 1981 as the fourth volume in the Anthropological Study Series. More than 15 years later, it continues to be one of the most requested titles in this series of booklets. Public interest has led to this revised and updated second edition.

Dr. Charles E. Pearson, archaeologist, and Dr. Paul E. Hoffman, historian, directed the research reported in this volume. They also are authors of the book entitled The Last Voyage of El Nuevo Constante, published by Louisiana State University Press in 1995. That comprehensive work provides many details about the construction, cargo, and archaeological investigation of El Nuevo Constante. Readers are encouraged to consult that publication for more information about this landmark project.

I hope that the second edition of El Nuevo Constante: Investigation of an Eighteenth Century Spanish Shipwreck off the Louisiana Coast will again raise interest in preserving Louisiana's shipwrecks. Laws protect wrecks in rivers, lakes, and in the Gulf of Mexico. These underwater resources are time capsules filled with information about our state's maritime history. Archaeologists and historians like Dr. Pearson and Dr. Hoffman open these capsules for the education of all our residents.

Nancy Hawkins
Outreach Coordinator

Acknowledgements

The success of this project has been due to the many people who generously provided their assistance and expertise. The State of Louisiana funded research on El Nuevo Constante under the auspices of the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. All of the members of the department are thanked. Especially instrumental in this project were Mrs. Lawrence H. Fox, former Secretary; J. Stephen Perry, former Undersecretary; and Kathleen M. Byrd, former State Archaeologist.

The assistance and interest of all of the members of Free Enterprise Salvage, Inc., the original finders of the wreck site, are greatly appreciated. In particular, thanks are extended to Curtis Blume, Doyle Berry, Everett Berry, Steve Smith, and Jimmy Calhoun. Many individuals provided technical assistance and support, including those at Louisiana State University, Coastal Environments, Inc., Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, and the Archive of the Indies, Seville, Spain. Other researchers and interested supporters provided aid and advice during the course of the project. They are all thanked for their help with this fascinating investigation.

Photographs in this volume were provided courtesy of Coastal Environments, Inc., the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development, the Louisiana Office of Tourism, and the Louisiana State Archives.

Introduction

Manifest
First page of the manifest of El Nuevo Constante outbound from Veracruz.

In the first week of September 1766, a hurricane blew two Spanish merchant ships aground on the Louisiana coast. Both were in the New Spain Fleet sailing from Veracruz, Mexico to Spain. Delays in Veracruz had forced the fleet to sail late in August, well into the dangerous hurricane season. The new Spanish government in Louisiana began immediate salvage of the two ships. This work to save and move cargo lasted two months.

Two hundred thirteen years later, Curtis Blume found one of the ships when he caught several large ingots of copper in his shrimp nets. The wreck lay in state waters near the southwestern coast of Louisiana. The State of Louisiana developed an agreement with Curtis Blume and several of his associates. This contract provided for historical and archaeological study of the shipwreck. That investigation led to the positive identification of the merchant ship El Nuevo Constante.

El Nuevo Constante is the first historic shipwreck discovered off the Louisiana coast. Careful study of it is both appropriate and fortunate. Archaeologists and historians found out about the ship and the events leading to its loss. They also excavated well-preserved artifacts, many of which are unique. These tell about the ship's construction, its cargo, and life aboard an eighteenth century merchant vessel.


Ingot
Copper ingot

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