Assateague Island is internationally known for the wild horses that have roamed there for centuries. Legend says they came from a shipwrecked Spanish galleon. In 1947, Marguerite Henry wrote Misty of Chincoteague, a children’s story based on real characters who lived near Assateague and raised horses. This book has sold millions of copies and was made into a movie in 1961. Both the book and the movie give a vivid account of the Spanish shipwreck legend.
Who would have guessed that these horses and the legendary galleon would play a role in two major admiralty law cases?
Subaqueous Exploration and Archaeology, Ltd. (SEA, LTD). Four non-existent and fraudulent shipwrecks were awarded to the State of Maryland by the U. S. District Court for the District of Maryland in 1983. One of these was described as the San Lorenzo de Escorial, the “shipwreck” that a clever con man said brought the horses to Assateague in 1820. The Hidden Galleon exposes the truth about the make-believe shipwrecks and efforts of the Attorney General of Maryland to keep the evidence of the fraud out of court.
The Sea Hunt Case. In 2000, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals awarded to Spain a Spanish warship called La Galga which had run ashore on Assateague in 1750. The shipwreck awarded to Spain was not La Galga. La Galga is, however, the legendary galleon attributed to the horses. Part of the fraud uncovered within SEA, Ltd. would find itself fifteen years later in the Sea Hunt case. A chain of misinformation that started with a fraud in 1980 about the location of La Galga would mislead Sea Hunt, the Kingdom of Spain, the federal government, and the Commonwealth of Virginia in their arguments in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia over this truly historic shipwreck. This would be the first time an admiralty court awarded a shipwreck to Spain. The Hidden Galleon takes you inside the Sea Hunt case and gives a view that published legal opinions fail to reveal. It also documents that the real shipwreck lies buried beneath the sands of the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, outside the admiralty jurisdiction of the federal court.
John Amrhein, Jr., award-winning maritime historian, published The Hidden Galleon in 2007. In 2011, he published TreasureIsland: The Untold Story. La Galga was escorting another treasure galleon called the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
when she wrecked. The Guadalupe arrived shattered and unable to sail at Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina. Her treasure was later stolen and buried on a deserted island in the Caribbean. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a fictional account of returning to that island.