San Sebastian

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San Sebastian (-1754)

According to John S. Potter, Jr. Potter (The Treasure Diver's Guide, 1972), the San Sebastian was a Spanish merchant ship, quite possibly a Manila Galleon, that sank off the west shore of Santa Catalina Island during the winter [October 2?] of 1754. She had sailed from the Philippines to Mexico and had been sailing through the outer Santa Barbara Channel when she was attacked by the English pirate George Compton. While attempting to escape, the San Sebastian ran aground and quickly sank. Potter believes that the wreckage is buried deep under shifting sands in 170 feet of water. On her ballast should be valuable cargo from the Orient, Potter writes. Reports differ as to the location of the wreck from San Clemente Island to Santa Catalina Island. Some say Compton captured and killed the surviving crew. Spain finally colozined California because of incidents like this and threats to Spain's claims over the territory. With the four presidios (San Diego, Santa Barbara, Monterey and San Francisco), so too came the California Missions. Between 1769 and 1821, Spain required all ships sailing along the California coast, including the Manila galleons, to stop and be inspected.

In the News~

December 23, 1958 [Oxnard Press Courier]: “Channel Islands Claimed Many Ships Over the Years... First Wreck. The first wreck of record in the protected channel passage is that of the galleon San Sebastian, which sank Jan. 7, 1754 at an undisclosed location. The San Sebastian was carrying a reported $2 million in treasure, but half the gold was removed by the crew before the waves claimed the vessel. She lies somewhere in the long sweep between Point Conception and Santa Monica today a hulk guarding her $1 million or more treasure trove...”