Wreck may be sunken British pirate ship


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The Independent Online

The wreck of a 19th-century pirate ship believed to contain a hoard of sunken treasure may finally have been found off Tonga, according to officials in the South Pacific island nation.

The Port-au-Prince, a British privateer which had looted treasure from French and Spanish vessels, sailed into Tongan waters in 1806 in search of whales. However, it was seized by the local chief, Finau Ulukalala II, whose warriors massacred most of the crew and then scuttled it, so Tongan legend goes.

Although the chief salvaged cannons and iron – then of great value in Tonga – from the ship, the rest of the treasure was supposedly left intact. Sandra Fifita, a local tourism official, said the Port-au-Prince's hold was believed to contain "a considerable amount of copper, silver and gold".

Over the years, many adventurers have searched for the ship without success, but last month a Tongan diver, Tevita Moala, came across wreckage off the coast of Foa island, in the Ha'apai Island group. Britain's National Maritime Museum has dated the wreck at between 1780 and 1850. Ms Fifita said that local divers were still mapping the wreck for further study.