Digital Library

San Salvador (1555)

Filipe Castro

Country: Portugal
Place: Buarcos
Coordinates: Lat. ; Long.
Type: Nau
Identified: Yes
Dated: 1555


This shipwreck is believed to be the Spanish nao San Salvador, part of D. Gonzalo de Carvajal 1555 small fleet, which was lost on the Portuguese coast.

The fleet was composed of three vessels, the capitana San Salvador, under the command of D. Gonzalo de Carvajal, the nao Santa Catalina, from Biscay, under Gregorio de Renteria, and the nau La Condesa, under captain Martin Alterco.

The story of this fleet has not been investigated by professional historians and treasure hunters are divided over the names of these ships. Some say that the name of the capitana, which was unloaded in Lisbon, is unknown, and that the other two vessels, lost at Buarcos and Carrapateira, were named San Salvador.

History of the Shipwreck

This site was probably found by local sport divers and a bell and a number of silver coins were kept in a garage, from where an Italian professional diver working for the local paper industry may have taken it.

In 1998 a group of treasure hunters contacted CNANS to try to find out if it would be possible to bribe the Portuguese government and establish a salvage contract for the “treasure” of San Salvador.  They alleged having in their possession a bell from the ship Santa Maria, of Christopher Columbus, and historical proof that the bell was being transported in San Salvador

Their permit was not granted – under Portuguese law treasure hunting was and is illegal – and the treasure hunters disappeared.


The site was surveyed in the 2000s by a team from CNANS but nothing has been published or is available about this survey.

The Portuguese cultural heritage database states that the bell from the purported site of the San Salvador shipwreck had actually been found by a local diver in an old anchorage area, with artifacts from a period spanning several centuries.


The bell appeared for sale in Spain in 2003, form USD $1,000,000, attributed to Columbus, and admittedly looted from a shipwreck site in Buarcos.  the sale was not authorized, and the bell appeared again for sale in Florida, in 2018, now for USD $5,000,000.

News from the first attempt to sell “Columbus bell.”

There are no news of any other artifacts recovered from this site.

News from the second attempt to sell the “Columbus bell.”


There are no scholarly references to this shipwreck site or its story.