In August 1559, eleven ships under command of Don Tristan de Luna y Arellano sailed into Pensacola Bay, then called Ochuse, to establish a new colony for Spain. Intended to stake a claim on the northern Gulf coast, the settlement was planned to become a city on the edge of the empire. A thousand colonists brought livestock, personal possessions, tools, and materials to build their new town. A month after they arrived, a powerful hurricane struck the fledgling colony and sank most of the ships, which were being used as floating warehouses for supplies and food. Survivors eventually were evacuated and the Spanish did not return to Pensacola Bay until 1698. In 1992, archaeologists with the State of Florida discovered one of Luna's ships off Emanuel Point near the entrance to Bayou Texar. A second ship was found by University of West Florida archaeologists nearby in 2006. Investigations revealed remnants of the doomed colony, including ceramic and metal storage containers and cooking pots, bones from cows and pigs, stone cannonballs and the wheel of a gun carriage, pieces of a suit of armor, wooden tool handles and eating utensils, and even remains of a ship's cat. The rest of Luna's fleet waits to be discovered.
A Florida Heritage Site