Digital Library

Six Shilling Cays Shipwreck (c. 1550)

Ricardo Borrero and Filipe Castro


Country: Bahamas

Place: Six Shilling Cays

Coordinates: 25° 16’ 08 N ; 076° 55’ W

Type: Unknown

Identified: No

Dated: No

History of the shipwreck

In October of 1994 John de Bry of the Center for Historical Archaeology, visited Mr. Maillis residence in Russel Island, North Eleuthera and examined and recorded several artefacts removed from the Six Shilling Cays wreck. The artefacts were kept immersed in the sea nearby Mr. Maillis’s house. The next day de Bry was taken to the wreck by captain Bernard Sweeting, who originally discovered the Shipwreck in the late 1980’s and mentioned it to Nick Maillis. Given a 4 m by 2m depression on the ballast suggesting its removal and the absence of ordinance and anchors on site, it is likely that the site was looted by treasure hunters, but given its shallowness it is also plausible that it was salvaged right after the wreck occurred.


Figure 1. Site Plan

Description of the site

It rests on a hard pan bottom with some coarse sand pockets, 300 yards south of Six Shilling Cays, between two rock formations. There is an outstanding visibility of about 100 feet and a water temperature of 83°F. In October winds of around 14 knots blow from the east and a strong current flow north onto the bank.


Several pottery sherds described as early type are reported, as well as a ceramic bead.


The ballst mound is about 11 m long, by 5 m wide and 1.5 m high. It is composed of rounded river rock which may contain iron ore, as metal detectors and magnetometers react. Part of the ballst was removed in the late 1980’s or eraly 1990’s.


Mr. Mallis removed the following artifacts form the wreck and kept them immersed in the sea nearby to his residence.

Designation Length Diameter Weight Caliber Comment
Single Verso breech chamber with defined handlle 30 cm 10 cm     Similar to the type found in the Molasses Reef Wreck
Single Verso breech chamber with poorly defined handle 27 cm 10 cm     Similar to the type found in the Molasses Reef Wreck
Conglomerate of two verso breech chambers fused around the handles A) 30 cm

B) 27.5 cm

A) 10 cm

B) 10 cm

    Similar to the type found in the Molasses Reef Wreck
Bombardeta or cerbatana breech chamber 52 cm 17 cm     Single lifting ring (13 cm diameter, 5 cm inner diameter) and a lug in the center, with possible breech recess
Possible verso tiller fragment          
Iron-cored shot     210 grams ca. 3.5 cm  


Three adittional “suspected” verso breech chambers were observed on site in 1994. All of them display the beer stein aspect. Another iron-cored lead shot was located on site.

Iron concretions

A concretion which probably encompassed two verso breech chambers was removed from the site by Mallis. Another concretion, probably encompassing two additional verso breech chambers was found on site. A fourth potential verso breech chamber was cemented to the hard pan sea floor 30 meters south of the ballast pile.

 Hull remains

Fragmentary wood was reported and sampled after removing few ballast stones.


De Bry, John (Center for Historical Archaeology). Maillis’s Six Shilling Cay Wreck Trip Report. Presented to: Ships of Discovery.