The Grifon Did Not Sink But Peter Benchley Gains a Script Anyway


The Grifon from "The Deep" Was Real and So Was Bisset

Shaw Keeps His Eyes Forward
Shaw Keeps His Eyes Forward

On this date in 1715, the French ship Grifon survived a hurricane off the coast of Florida. “So what,” you ask?Well, first off when the Spanish came to the new world they were looking for booty and plunder. They wanted to exploit the region for its natural resources and send it back to the king in Spain. So they would gather up all of their gold and trinkets and send them back on ships, usually in a convoy to protect against pirates. The Spaniards were rather formidable in those days and so it was suicide for any marauding pirates to try and take on a fleet of ships. On this date in 1715, 10 Spanish ships and one French ship made its way through the Straits of Florida. 

Shaw wasn't making up the stuff about the Griffon

Shaw wasn't making up the stuff about the Griffon

The flotilla rounded the Florida peninsula in order to follow the Gulf Stream back to Europe.  As it made their way up the east coast of Florida,  the entire fleet ran into a hurricane. Some sources say the fleet hit the hurricane on July 30, 1715 and I suspect the difference is that the ships went down on the night of the 30th or early morning of the 31st as this account implies.    In any event, for some reason, the French ship sailed farther off the coast from the Spaniards. The Spanish ships, filled with hundreds of tons of gold and silver, sunk. Some estimate the value of the treasure in 1975 dollars was about $86 million.  But,  the French ship survived. That French ship was the Grifon.

Painting of 1715 Ship Wreck

The sinking of the Spanish fleet in 1715 was one of the worst of Spain’s New World ventures in terms of lives and treasure lost.  Over 1000 men went to the bottom with the 10 ships and the crown lost over 14 million pesos.  Maritime historians that the ultimate cause of the disaster beyond the hurricane was that the Spanish had a habit of over loading their galleons and speculation is that was the case with the 1715 Spanish fleet.   News of the disaster reached Havana and Spain quickly dispatched ships for salvage operations.  A good bit of the treasure was located in waters shallow enough for breath-holding divers to gather a large number of coins.  The salvage operations took several years to complete and the Spanish built a small store house on the edge of a small island to house the treasure until it could be taken back to Spain.  But, British freebooters caught wind of the operation and in 1716, a bunch of ships under the charge of Henry Jennings raided the island and made off with 350,000 pesos.  Undeterred, the Spanish resumed salvaging until they had gotten all that they could get in 1719. 

A Famous Scene from "The Deep"

A Famous Scene from "The Deep"

If you remember the movie The Deep then this ship is familiar to you. Its the ship that Robert Shaw decided had survived but later came back and may have sunk. I’ve provided a script from the scene below. But anyway, there are two things that come to mind from this. First is that Peter Benchley did a fabulous job of basing his fictitious tale on accurate history. I was very surprised that there really was a Grifon that really was the only ship to not sink in a hurricane. The other thing is that about 80% of that gold was recovered by the Spanish by 1719 but the rest did not come back to the surface until the mid 1960’s, which makes me wonder how much of Benchley’s script was really ficticious. Speaking of scripts, if you can take your eyes off of the photo of Jacqueline  Bisset, you can read the script from The Deep, here.

Weather Bottom Line:  Morning rain should give way to cloudy skies.  I doubt if we get to 90 today.  But, the warm front will slowly lift north and we will become hotter and more humid again.  Look for scattered showers and t-storms for a couple of days and then a big fat ridge noses up from the Southwest which will limit rain chances and take our temperatures back into the mid to upper 90’s probably beginning on Tuesday.

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