In search of the Second of the Three Pearl Ships


Little is known of the ship that sank on the venture of the three pearl ships of 1616 in the Sea of Cortez, archival data devotes most of the records and data to that of Juan de Iturbe and his ghost ship of the desert. In reality there were in fact three ships, all three were built in 1612 in Acapulco Mexico and all three traveled together. the mystique of the “desert ship” has for over three centuries overshadowed the other two. For published archival data we know that the Flagship of the Pearl Ships made its way back with its mortally wounded captain Alvarez de Cordone, Cordone who arranged the ill fated trade with the locals that led to the attack by locals on he and the other two ships. What we do not know and in basis mere conjecture was the fate of the second ship commanded by Pedro de Rosales. Of the three captains, de Iturbe was the most noted and both Cordone and Rosales in some ways faded into the pages of oblivion, as later to redeem himself Iturbe went on to remove the English settlement at “Drake’s Bay”. 


However the conjecture of the events of the sinking of the Pedro de Rosales craft is an unknown as to where it went down exactly and as well the fate of the cargo. In some reports there is a statement that Rosales’ cargo was removed and placed aboard the ship commanded by Iturbe and yet other reports state that its cargo went down with the ship.


Regardless, the fate of the ship we do know that during the attack panic came into play and that as well the second ship struck a shallow water obstruction and sank, this being some 397 years, or four centuries. We know that the ship was like that of both Cordone’s and Iturbe’s and was one of the three caravel type craft that left the port of Acapulco and sailed north by north east. It had a crew contingent of 16 and as well 25 of the 75 divers on the expedition. We also know from published reports that the “cargo” that was removed from the ship was that of the pearls, we do not know however if the second cargo, contraband cargo was removed as well. In studies of the manner and means in which captains operated along the coasts of our country, and as well along its routes, we have learned that “supplemental” taking on of cargo was not unlikely, nor unusual. This practice of the day (circa 1600-1650) was as customary as was setting sail and running with the winds.


Based on satellite data, archival data in the repository of Seville, other sources it is believed that Rosales who entered into the agree of defrauding the local tribes along the shore, may have had more than just a complacent viewpoint in the taking on board illicit cargo. As well the supplemental income practices of the day.


in examining different areas of where both he and Iturbe would have traveled, the published reports of the sinking little is to be doubted that like Iturbe and Cordone, Rosales was just as equally in the thick of another seafaring practise, that of smuggling. Based on reports there is substantial data to support a shallow water sinking (depth <50′) and as well it may be possible to identify areas of debris fields and as well possibly find significant artifactual materials to identify positively the position of the second of the three “Pearl Ships” and its location within the “Sea of Cortez”.



in search of the Second of the Pearl Ships of the Expedition of 1616 , led by Alverez de Cordone.

The mystique of the “Pearl Ships of 1616” led by Alvarez de Cordone, and co-captains Pedro de Rosales and Juan de Iturbe. The ships licensed by King Phillip the 3d and built in 1612 in Acapulco, Mexico. Little did anyone conceive that the fate of three captains, and three ships would end in 1616, four years after their being built, nor of the mystery that would surround two of the three ships some 397 years later.


Searching the Dried up seas, in search of the Caravel

The mysterious ships of the Salton Sea Basin The Mexican built caravels were and are a mystery,where we find ships sketches,detailed drawings or plans for building ships, we have to date never had adequate data to shown the actual construction of the Spanish caravel post 1495. In the great port of the late 1500’s in Acapulco Mexico we know that much shipbuilding was conducted.
We know from accounts that three such ships were built, licensed to seek pearls within the sea of Cortez, what is now known as the gulf of California . We know that a favored person of the king was a man known as Cordone, that he enlisted the aid of two sea captains, Rosales and Itrube. 
The king then was Phillip III, that the boats were taxed to the standard of 1610,and as well that the ships were in fact privately held and not part of the Spanish navy. As well we know that the construction of the three Ships was during 1612.
That the overall dimensions of the ships, the caravels, similar to the two caravels that accompanied Christopher Columbus in his journey westward across the Atlantic in 1492. 
Beyond that description of the crafts built 93 feet long 28 feet wide and with a draft of 9 feet with a displacement of 50 tonnes. We know that 75 divers of black mexican descendants were aboard with the crew of the three ships. What is also known that in one of the last dealings the Spanish captain Cordone had with the locals along the shoreline that he attempted to cheat the locals in an exchange for pearls. 
When the locals realized they had been cheated they attacked and Cordone was mortally wounded with a piercing injury to the chest. In the process of moving to safety, Rosales ship reefed and took on water the cargo turned over to Itrube for continuing on as his ship sailed further into the sea of Cortez ( now the Gulf of California ).
Iturbe’s ship sailed north by east as in an earlier expedition in 1615 or so he thought a legendary passage to the Gulf of Mexico . (Which has in fact never existed. As Rosales was now in charge of the ship commanded by Cordone , he and Cordone proceeded to make their way back to Acapulco . Iturbe sailed on and entered what is known as the Colorado River into what was in his thinking a continuation of the Sea of Cortez. As he sailed he believed that he was in fact able to enter the Pacific Ocean around then believed to be the Isle of California or perhaps to sail east to the Gulf of California. However it was at this time theory. No choice but to return south down as previously traveled Lake Cahullia, now known as the Salton Sea basin began its retreat from some change in condition and water levels diminishing Itrube finding “sound and shoal” measurements reveling a lowering water level. As well the real possibility of being stranded and shoaled. 
Finding such he sought his retreat, as well he would follow the logic of seeking open seas. With the Indicators showing his best possible retreat to the west and hopefully open water,hence he would sail south by west in the hopes of finding portage back to the Sea of Cortez .

The probability of finding deeper waters diminished with each attempt. Sailing the ship son becalmed shoaled. In the days of old usually an anchor was set to stern and the crew would attempt to free the ship by winching to stern. How ever Itrube found he was solidly aground and that the waters had left his ship sitting in nothing more than wetted sands. He ordered the crew to carry only the supplies needed and they struck out overland to avoid hostiles that resulted being such because of the previous trade that ended in attack .

Hence the story of the “Pearl Ship” yet there was more,in 1775 Anza made his famous journey, while doing so he ordered a mule driver named Manquerna to take his mule and go east to find the sea. Manquerna in his travel stumbled onto the ship,in his recitals, as recorded in “The Journey of the Flame”he cited his finding the ship lost 100 years well he told of the cargo of pearls,but never was able to return to the site,however in his recitals he also reported more than just pearls. It was pondered if Itrube had in fact picked up a cargo of “contraband” during the days of early navigation ,it was not unusual for captains to stop and take on untaxed or contraband cargo to increase their personal wealth, Itrube was no exception.
In later archival information it was discovered his “contraband ” cargo was in fact a treasure worth much,more than the pearls he and the others sought but the hands of fate would mark him historically in the history of the Salton Sea Basin where in the 8750 square mile basin his ship would disappear in the sands of time over 397 years.

In 2011 , I began researching the archives much to my surprise the stories hold true, not only as to the events but as well the fact the cargoes have never been recovered . Months of satellite imagery studies of tidal shifts, change in sea level and as well geologic events over a period of 397 years. The effort has taken a year of research and hard work, long hours spent chasing the earlier navigation methods used during the time back then. Itrube accomplished much during his time, later he would deal with privateers, lead a squadron and retake some of the land privateers used as a base. He started out as a accountant and then later after the fiasco on lake Cahullia would find gold in the black sands of the Ozo river north of his ill fated ship and would find Itrube somewhat forgiven in the lost of ship and the pearls.

The archival data exists that the “pearl ship” was in fact smuggling contraband cargo, the basis of reported informations over time throughout as well as archives of the catholic church revealed that Iturbe was more than just possibly carrying such cargo. Some believe that Iturbe was convinced of a passage around California or that as unrealistic ally he had found a passage to the gulf of Mexico , neither was reality. However the fact remains that he ventured north into the basin area. Such is well recorded as well Iturbe reported the loss of his ship to be north of the 34th latitude and as such would have put in the vicinity of what is now known as the westmorland area, further north perhaps as to an area identified as San Felipe wash, explorations using satellite and as well field studies indicate the latter was in fact more realistic, and as well new data indicates that prior to Iturbe there was an ancient people who may have more of a role in the history of California than that of a pearl ship.

Side note : A search for a myth : Chicomoztoc

During the process of my research it was learned that once long ago the peoples known as Aztlan lived within the region. Curious as to where,how and when my explorations took on a new scope, that being to try to find the mysterious place identified through time as “Chicomoztoc”. 

Studies have revealed through the codices and codex of both the Maya as well as the Aztecs that within their reported histories such a place existed, and as such, such existed. The revelation of a place known as chicomoztoc gives credence to the fact once upon a time perhaps the descendents of the Aztecan may be derived from Chicomoztoc itself according to the codex observed and as well legend, as possible that this is now a large vast sand desert or has been in actuality part of the Sea of Cortez, aka the Gulf of California ,that such submerged for 900 years, from 700 AD to 1650 AD ,may have been in Laguna Salada in Mexico or perhaps as far north as somewhere near the Superstition Mountain of California’s Salton Sea basin. It is said that coronado believed the the ancient petroglyphs found throughout the region were markers to the lost “City of Gold” Cibola however there is a real possibility that these glyphs were in fact marking the trail back to Chicomoztoc.

Studies of both Iturbe and as well Anza’s travels may well document the possible existence of the earlier beginnings of the Aztec and Mayan cultures as to have originated from California or perhaps as subjectively as it is to Laguna Salada.

The real possibility that Iturbe in his escape from the loss of his ship from stranding may have crossed the paths of the ancients who were in fact not only the Aztec but the Maya as well, much has been said about the pride rightfully so of the descendants of the Aztlan people and perhaps in some way if the codices hold true then it is quite possible that California may have been the origin of two great civilizations. Thus the real history of an area interlaced with both travels by an ancient people and as well Spanish ships of the line and merchants.

The explorations of the area have expanded to include the search for what has been termed a “Viking Ship” which in research may. Have very well been a design of the Aztlan people as such design in similar studies of primitive craft reveal design characteristics of both reported Mayan and Aztec type craft, with high point stern and bow configurations. Not to mention the theory of civilizations developing in parallel as to both achievement of architecture and quite possibly nautical architectures as well. ( ie Phoenician ships, Greek and other seafaring people’s )

You would think that in trying to find the illusion at a point you would realize such , but the overwhelming evidence of codices give pause to the reality.of such a situation having happened and as well the probability of such a place existing when viewing the history and repetitive accounts of the story .

The same as chasing shipwrecks, the discoveries of ancient histories for most is something done from,an armchair with in the confines of the visual with a remote control and instant replay or perhaps with a serious interest attends a classroom in a class and then wistfully looking as they gaze into the looking glass wishful and in some ways thinking of what or how they would have gone about the search. A path that some scoff and others in the search for history never find frustration only the next chart or map and as well a seeking attitude and ultimately find the invisible “X” that marks the spot.

Evidence suggests that west butte is the probable location. The entrance is an elevation of 425 ASML. Runs easterly then at about a 5% grade through 1/2 mile then turns south for 1/4 to 1/3 miles. Graduation in elevation suggests portage is easily reached cave height is about 8 feet.

A lost Caravel lost in the sands of time

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.