You know Captain Morgan. He’s that jolly pirate with a familiar stance and a fondness for spiced rum. He’s a pop culture icon who sports a recognizable wardrobe and likes to be paired with Coke. But Captain Morgan is more than just a Caribbean rum mascot. The real life Henry Morgan was one of the most notorious privateers of all time. He carried with him a Letter of Marque issued by the British government and the Governor of Jamaica to fight the Spanish on behalf of England. He raided the centers of wealth and influence on the Spanish Main, amassing the largest fleet in the history of the Caribbean. The loot he collected from his adventures was his reward.

Morgan’s mythical status has grown over the centuries, but the real Henry Morgan is resurfacing in the Chagres River in Panama. For the past three years, the Captain Morgan brand has teamed up with a crew of US archaeologists to search for Morgan’s lost fleet. The effort first began in September 2010, when the team discovered six cannon that belonged to Morgan. Last summer, they located a wooden shipwreck from the 17th century. This wreck could be one of the five ships that Morgan lost on the Lajas Reef in 1671.

This summer, the team returned to excavate the wreckage. They uncovered swords, chests, cargo seals and wooden barrels (which, in all likelihood, don’t contain 340-year-old rum). These artifacts are now being preserved in Panama City so that their origins can be verified. They will remain the property of the Panamanian government and be displayed at the Patronato Panamá Viejo in Panama City.

Morgan and his men were able to overcome Fort San Lorenzo at Charges and take Panama. At the time, Panama City was considered the capital of Spanish America and was one of the richest cities in the world. The raid was a success, but poorly timed. After the city was captured and looted, word arrived that England had signed a peace treaty with Spain. By the time Morgan returned to Port Royal, Jamaica, the governor had been arrested and shipped back to England. Morgan soon suffered a similar fate.

But his exile in England didn’t last long. As tensions with the Dutch flared up in the West Indies, the King sought the advice of the celebrated buccaneer. Morgan’s tactical recommendations put him in good favor with Charles II, and before too long Morgan was knighted by the king and sent back to Jamaica to serve as deputy governor.

With his swashbuckling days behind him, Morgan’s life took a more respectable turn. He began overseeing matters of state and grew rich from his sugar plantations. Ever the survivor, Morgan outmaneuvered his political adversaries. After being relieved of his duties, Morgan would reclaim his spot on the governing council at Port Royal and remain there until his death in 1688.

So pretty cool stuff. If you like pirates and shipwrecks and rum and archaeology and feel-good rogue-to-riches stories, there’s a lot to love here. Just check out some photos of the excavation efforts:

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