"Madre de Deus"
by cm
A Portuguese Carrack (by Brueghel)
Public DomainA Portuguese Carrack by Brueghel
The Madre de Deus was the archetypal treasure galleon.  The 165ft Portuguese carrack had seven decks and 700 crew.   To get an idea of the scale of this fat, squat ship, consider her weight: at 1,600 tonnes, fully laden, she was as heavy as ten adult blue whales or a hundred London double-decker buses.   She was three times the size of any English ship of the time.   It took twelve men to shift her huge rudder.   The battle between the English privateers and the carrack was not so “brief” as Sobel suggests: three hours of vicious fighting left the decks covered in dead and mutilated bodies.   More chaos ensued when the ship was brought into Dartmouth Harbour and left largely unguarded.   Local sailors and fishermen promptly looted part of the treasure before Sir Walter Raleigh arrived from London to put a stop to it.   The account given in this blog (see February 11 2008) is extraordinary.