National Geographic : 1990 Sep
shipment a year, the temptation to overload vessels was overwhelming. Graftand the shipment of contra band went hand in hand with lax enforcement of regulations.Bundles were expertly compressed and packed, usually by Chinese, and then wedged into place. Cannon were often stored in holds, making more room on deck for merchandise but leaving the ship open to attack. Hundreds of storagejars containing fresh water were secured below deck, while others hung overhead, lashed tightly to rigging made of Manila hemp. And the cargo itself? The Orient opened its doors and outpoured cinnamon and pepper and clove from the Spice Islands, delicate porcelainsandfinely woven rugs from China, cotton cloth from In dia, ivory from Cambodia, cam phorfrom Borneo, andjewelry set with preciousgems from Burma, Ceylon, and Siam. Most in de mand, however, were Chinese silks, made of every imaginable weave and manufacture. Because of an interruptionin trade, the Concepci6n brimmed with a backlog of such treasures when she broke apart.A fragment (left), perhapsfrom a gold ewer, testifies to the perils of the reef upon which she met herfate.