The year was 1612, proudly three small ships were being keeled, three years later a turn of events will mark them in history. Little is known of the changes or modifications of what is referred to as the “Latin Caravel” similar in design to two of the three ships that Columbus sailed across the Atlantic to discover the New World in 1492, but changes in the course of the years did evolve. Much is written in curious sentences of the “Lost Pearl Boat of the Mojave” but in actuality little is really known of the architecture involved. Three ships left Acapulco, in hopes of discovering pearl rich beds of the Gulf of California, now known as the Sea of Cortez. What is known is that the ill fated voyage in 1615 was to say the least a tragedy of errors and negligence. Discovering a tribe of natives on its voyage the small group of boats entered into trade clothing for pearls. Cordone who began the trading decided that the instead of the fine clothing promised he would instead give the natives, bundles of old clothes and rags. Once the deception was detected , the local chief sent his warriors on the attack. Cordone was mortally wounded, his ship returned to Acapulco with its wounded skipper and the skipper of a sister ship, Rosales whose boat struck a reef and began to take on water abandoned, but not before its cargo of pearls had been moved to the boat skippered by Juan de Iturbe. There the story of the “Ghost ship of the Mojave” was put in motion.
As we all know nature, and circumstance can often lead to disaster, Iturbe was about to find out exactly how those events would forever seal the fate of his boat. Iturbe proceeded to sail North, entering the flooded Colorado river basin he proceeded to sail further inland. At that point in time as well a tidal inudation of the Gulf of California contributed to the error of assumption. Iturbe thinking he was still in the Gulf, proceeded to search for the beds of pearls. The as fast as the flooding occured it began its retreat. Iturbe soon realized that the basin was emptying and made his attempt at escape back to open water,though a shallow draught its water under keel was just not there, and Iturbe’s fate and that of his ship was sealed. Finding his craft stranded in the sands, he evacuated his crew with provisions all they could carry and trekked across the desert and mountains of Cailfornia some 366 miles distance to San Luis Obispo to the Spanish Mission there. In 1616 he was given another ship but that of his former command was lost.
In the area now known as the Mojave Desert, in legend and myth the ill fated boat and its location remains a mystery today and as well in the archives in both Spain and the reports filed by Iturbe the lost in the area somewhere above the 34th latitude remains. For eight months I have researched the “Great Bird of the Mojave” as it has been handed down by Native Americans, the sporadic news reports over 396 years, all state to date the location of the “Pearl Ship” remains a mystery. The craft from some reports was 30 meters in length, 8 meters at the beam and had an estimated weight of 50 tonnes. Studying satellite and archival records, my research begins next week to explore three sites of the possible location of Juan de Iturbe’s ill fated pearl boat.