Digital Library

Rincón Shipwreck

Richard Fontánez, Gustavo Garcia, Filipe Castro


Discovered and partially salvaged in de mid-1980s, this shipwreck may be English and can be dated to the second half of the 17th century.

At the time of its trove it was hypothesized that these were the remains of the ship Defiance, part of a small fleet of English royalists under the command of Prince Rupert of the Rhine, which had to resort to piracy during the period of the English Commonwealth (1649-1660). The historic interest of this shipwreck would be that Prince Maurice (Moritz Pfalzgraf von der Pfalz, 1621-1652), younger brother of Prince Rupert, lost his life in this shipwreck. Prince Maurice was the son of Frederick V, Elector of the Palatinate, and Princess Elizabeth, sister of king Charles I of England, beheaded on January 30th 1649.

Remains of the ship Defiance were said to have washed ashore “upon the Southward side of the Island [of Puerto Rico]” where “they found a ship cast away and several pieces of the wreck came ashore; and amongst the rest a Goulden Lyon wich some of them saw and a great quantitie of pipestaves markt MP as all Prince maurice his cask[s] were.”

This hypothesis is plausible, but far from proven. The last known position of Defiance is indicated in the figure below, 70 nautical miles to the north of Sombrero Island, quite far away from the Rincon shipwreck site.

We believe, however, that this shipwreck can be English and date to the period 1640-1670.

In fact, a number of pewter plates were found on this site, of which one carried the mark of Nicholas Kelk (d.1687), who had a pewter shop in London and in 1641 “was allowed an extra apprentice to replace one serving in the army”. His mark is dated to 1640-1670.


The study of this shipwreck was carried out in the summer of 2009 by Richard Fontánez, Gustavo Garcia, Filipe Castro, and Chris Cartellone.

Story of the Ship

Defience may have been a Portuguese ship seized by Prince Rupert in cape Verde.  That could explain the trove of a Portuguese  astrolabe on the shipwreck site.


We do not have information.


This site was found in s.

Site Formation Process



The site exposed consisted of a


Ship Fittings



One gun was raised from the site and it looks English and fits the pattern for guns of this period, and all the surviving artifacts seem to suggest a date around the middle of the 17th century for the loss of this ship.


Most artifacts have disappeared already in the 1980s, during salvage operations. Some are in Florida and some in private collections. A large collection of ceramics was lost when hurricane Georges hit San Juan and flooded the conservation laboratory.

Hull Remains




Personal Items





Academic work:

Gustavo Garcia (MA 2000-2005), Committee Chair: F. Castro, The Rincón Astrolabe Shipwreck.