National Geographic : 1969 Jun
KUUACHRUMES BY BATESLITILEHALES ) N.G .5 . Token of love, a gold ring bears a hand holding a heart and the Spanish inscription "No tengo mas que .darte-I have nothing more to give thee." One of many recovered from the wreck, this ring probably belonged to a young nobleman whose be trothed saw him sail gallantly away to conquer England. from the ravaged hand and rolled into a crevice. As time passed, storms in their suc cession piled sand and stones over the ring's resting place. Shells were strewn over it, to be slowly cemented together by time and the rust of iron fragments from the ship. Four centuries later, poring over fading documents in the dusk of Europe's archives, I pieced together the story of the shipwreck. Soon afterward I found the wreck site itself under 30 feet of icy water. There, with four companions, I moved massive boulders, searched the crannies they concealed, sifted the sands in the crannies. In the very bottom of the deepest cleft, lying beside a golden two escudo piece and several silver pieces of eight, we found the keepsake ring (above). I carried it up out of the sea which had held it so long, into the world of men to which it belonged. Safe aboard our boat, the ring lay cold and wet in my black-gloved hand, glowing softly under the pale Irish sun. 750 Carved upon it was a tiny hand, offering a heart, and these words: "No tengo mds que darte-I have nothing more to give thee." To me that ring is the most beautiful, the most touching treasure of the Armada. But many other pages of the dramatic story lay waiting for us to find beneath the unrevealing stones below. I dived again. Wild Water Guards Girona's Treasure Brown kelp covered the undersea country side like a jungle. But now, after many dives, I knew each block of stone, each narrow can yon of this submerged chaotic world. In the ceaseless swell of the Atlantic, the drowned forests swayed like palm trees in a hurricane (pages 752-3). That swell was the sea's pulse. We had learned to live by its rhythm. To move ahead, I waited for a wave that would catapult me forward. Then, when my forward motion ceased, I seized a branch of kelp which, as the surge reversed its thrust, fluttered in the current like a flag in the wind. My scuba air hoses, pulling against the mouth piece locked between my clenched teeth, vi brated against my ears. Then, once again, the kelp whipped forward. Letting go, I was swept onward toward my destination. That destination was a crevice in which a silver coin was wedged. I had seen it on a previous dive but could not dislodge it. This time I carried a hammer and chisel. I found the spot, locked my legs around a rock, and began chipping away at the matrix that ce mented the stones between which my coin was jammed. At last the piece came free. I rubbed it between my gloved thumb and index finger. A profile appeared-that of a grave, bearded man-and legible letters. I held a silver piaster of Naples (page 752). Of Naples? Yes, that made sense; the Girona was from Naples, a kingdom then under Spanish rule. And the face on the coin was that of the king who wove, in the depths of his Escorial Palace near Madrid, the web in which he wished to envelop the world. It was Philip II, the Prudent, Defender of the Faith, King of Arag6n, of Castile, and of Le6n, King of Portugal and of the Two Sicilies, King of all the Spains and the Indies, Duke of Milan, of Burgundy, of Brabant, Count of Flanders, King of Jerusalem; vanquished king.* My hand, stiffening with cold, closed on the history of Europe. At last I touched that history, here where it had been made, after so many, many hours spent pursuing it in the *Dr. Louis B. Wright told of the Armada's fate in "The World of Elizabeth I," GEOGRAPHIC, November 1968.