By M.P. Pellicer | Eerie.News
A discovery of "ancient beeswax" found on the Oregonian coast at Nehalem was reported in the newspapers throughout the years. It was assumed it came from a wrecked vessel, that foundered on its way to a Catholic monastery in California. The wax was etched with Latin words.
During the 1800s, there were different theories where chunks of beeswax washing onshore were coming from. First it was assumed it might have come from the ship Peacock wrecked on the Nehalem Bay sandpit. It carried beeswax among its cargo, which was strewn along the beach. However William Savage a pioneer in the area during the 1840s, said the brig-of-war Peacock was wrecked at the mouth of Columbia River in 1842.
Then there was controversy if it was beeswax or mineral wax, however the wing of a bee was found imbedded in the wax, providing evidence of what it truly was.
By 1922, it was reported that chunks of beeswax were sent by Emil G. Gadell of Manzanita to the Oregon Agricultural College.
In 1961, the Shell Oil Company issued a report stating the beeswax found in the sand dune of Nehalem Peninsula were about 430 years old. They tested a specimen at their laboratory in Texas after it was sent to them by the Tillamook County Chamber of Commerce.
Some believed it came from the cargo of the San Francisco Xavier, a Spanish galleon which wrecked in 1705 as it was headed from Mexico to the Philippines.
Dr. Cook, who taught at Castleton Teachers' College in Vermont, and was in the process of writing a book titled, The Spanish in the Pacific Northwest saw a picture in the newspapers of Alex Walker holding a piece of beeswax he had found. He said, "From the marking, it is undoubtedly from a Spanish ship which visited the area in the early days. It appears to be one of the largest and best preserved pieces in existence." He said that beeswax was once found along the coast in large quantities, but it was destroyed by those who didn't realize what they had found. These specimens came from Spanish ships that were wrecked off the coast.
The Santo Cristo de Burgos left Manila, then a Spanish colony, on what was supposed to be a normal trading voyage. It sailed into oblivion until 2022.
The galleon had filled its hold with beeswax, Chinese porcelain and silk bound for Mexico. Somewhere in the northern Pacific it ran into some type of disaster. Seven years later, an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale swallowed part of the Oregon coastline, and then returned it inside a tsunami. This event was known as the Great Cascadia Earthquake.
The galleon and its cargo were thrown onto the coastline, among all the other debris returned to the shore..
The Maritime Archeological Society (MAS) researched legends of a burning ship and its survivors retold by the Nehalem Indians. It involved tales of lost treasure and locals finding pieces of Chinese porcelain shards along the shoreline.
According to the oral histories of the Nehalem Indians, crewmen from the ship lived with them for some time, leaving descendants who are in the area until this day. Other stories contradict this version, in which the crew who survived the wreck were killed by the natives.
Examination of the porcelain proved they came from the Kangxi period of the late 17th century, which corresponded with the time period the ships were sailing between Manila and Mexico.
According to Spanish naval records, two galleons were lost during these years. It was the Santo Cristo de Burgos sailing from Manila to Acapulco, and the San Francisco Xavier, lost in 1705. However examination of large wooden timbers recovered in coastal sea caves find they date to before the tsunami, ruling out the San Francisco Xavier.
Radio carbon dating on the wood indicated it was built in the 1650s from Asian lumber.
The earliest reference to the wreck date back to 1813, when fur trader Alexander Henry said the local Clatsop tribe were trading large amount of beeswax they said came from a shipwreck near Nehalem Bay. Teak from the ship's timber were used to build furniture and souvenirs. Much of the beeswax was marked with Spanish shipping symbols, and wings of bees native to the Philippines were found trapped in the wax.
It is a mystery why the galleon was sailing off the coast of Oregon, north of its route to Mexico, unless it was damaged and drifted off course.
In 2006, a group of archaeologists from the Maritime Archeology Society started The Beeswax Wreck Research Project, using the shards of Chinese porcelain recovered thus far by beachcombers.
A group of volunteers were looking for clues through the local lore that had accumulated through the years about the beeswax wreck. Ronald Spores a professor at Vanderbilt University was part of the group, and in 2018 he was reviewing 17th-century records from Spain, and found the personnel manifest of ship. There were 231 persons on board its last voyage. They were 215 officers and crew members; 62 weren't Spanish but creoles from the Philippines, China, Malaysia and other cultures. There were only 16 passengers, composed of military personnel and clergy. There were no women.
There is an oral tradition in which 30 survivors, some which sported long ponytails, possibly the non-Spanish crew made it to the shore. In a tantalizing clue, a rock at Oswald State Park, south of Manzanita, the initials "HM" were carved in old style lettering into it. One of the crew was named Hernando Muñoz. Could this have been him?
Could the story that all who survived and made it to the beach were killed, or were they instead integrated into the tribes living there, leaving descendants in the area?
In 1915, an article described where a "primitive Spanish cannon" had been found nine miles north of Nehalem Bay in what became known as Cannon Beach. There was another account of a second cannon found on Nehalem beach. What became of the cannons after their discovery is unknown.
In 2013, Craig Andes, a beachcomber found timbers sticking out of the sand in caves, which initially no one believed belonged to a shipwreck. It turned out he was right.
A waterlogged beam was turned over to archaeologists in 2020 hoping it would provide more answers to this centuries-old mystery. All except the final resting place of the Santo Cristo de Burgos. Experts believe the lower hull of the galleon is somewhere off shore.
In 2022, more pieces were recovered and are the first piece of physical evidence to confirm its existence.
The numerous stories circulated about the lost ship caught the attention of director Steven Spielberg. This was the jumping off point for the idea behind the 1985 movie, The Goonies where a group of kids use a map to find the hidden treasure left behind by One-Eyed Willy, a 17th-century pirate.
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