Timepieces and pirates may not have a clear connection, but thanks to a recovered pocket watch, we can deduce the time of the earthquake that sunk Port Royal, the richest and wickedest city in the new world. Port Royal, located in the south east of Jamaica in Kingston Harbor, was once one of the busiest trading centers of the British West Indies. While it was an English town, much of the population consisted of buccaneers, pirates and freebooters. In turn, merchants and artisans followed to cater to the pirates desires and greedily sell their wares and services to the gold-laden buccaneers. By the late 1600s, it had become one of the largest European cities in the new world, second only to Boston. The most well-known pirate to establish his headquarters in Port Royal was Captain Henry Morgan.
In addition to having a popular rum named after him, Captain Morgan was one of the most notorious privateers of the 17th century. Privateers were legal pirates; mercenaries who attacked enemy ships and ports in exchange for most of the loot. The remainder of the loot was sent to the king. Morgan worked to attack Spain for England while the two countries were at war. Due to escalating aggression, the English sent many of their privateers, including Captain Morgan, to Port Royal to be ready for war. By 1668 Morgan was the leader of the Brethren of the Coast, a group of pirates, buccaneers, corsairs, and privateers on Port Royal. Morgan was most well-known for taking over Panama and soon after that, he settled in Jamaica. He spent most of his days drinking and running his estates until his death in 1688.
On June 7, 1692, Port Royal was hit by an estimated 7.5 magnitude earthquake followed by a great tsunami. Due to the limited building space, most of the two-story brick houses were built on loose sand. The sandy soil resulted in a geological phenomenon known as liquefaction. When fault lines shift under a sandy area, instead of shaking, the earth surrounds whatever is on its surface. The earthquake sank over 33 acres of Port Royal immediately after the main shock. Of the 6,500 people living in Port Royal at the time, over two thousand people are believed to have died. The survivors rebuilt their city across the bay. This city is now known as Kingston, the capital of Jamaica. The original Port Royal is at the bottom of the sea.
In the 1950s, deep-sea divers started to explore the hidden treasures of Port Royal. One such diver, Edwin A. Link found a new way to explore the sea by designing a vessel for diving and salvaging, called the “Sea Diver.” During his expedition to Port Royal, he discovered many artifacts such as pewter, clay pipes, and glass. However, the most well-known artifact from that expedition was a brass-cased pocket watch which dated back to 1686. It was made by a Frenchman living in the Netherlands named Paul Blondel. The watch was not in the of best conditions as the hands had been damaged due to rust. However, through x-rays, scientists found that the hands were stopped at 11:43 AM–which is believed to be the time the earthquake took place. For archeology, this was the first instance that the exact time for a disaster was recorded.
Today, the remains of Port Royal lie under 40 feet of water, and attract explorers and sightseers all over the world. With permission from the government, people can dive into the restricted Port Royal ruins. Many of the items recovered over the years can be seen at the Museum of History and Ethnography at the Institute of Jamaica in Kingston. Because of the unique circumstances of this natural disaster, many buildings are still intact and fairly undisturbed. It has been compared to Pompeii for its archaeological wonders and was designated as a National Heritage Site in 1999.
Times Ticking has been in operation for more than 30 years, since 1982. We have performed watch repair for customers both locally and internationally. If it Ticks! We KNOW it! Our team of watch repair technicians have a combined experience in watchmaking of over 120 years.