Written by Marco Ramerini. Photos by Krzysztof Kudlek. English text revision by Dietrich Köster.
The “Flor do Mar” or “Flor de la Mar” was a Portuguese galleon of 400 tons, which was part of the fleet sent to conquer the city of Malacca in 1511. The vessel was built in Lisbon in 1502 and at the time of its construction it was one of the largest and most beautiful galleons of the time. The ship made its first trip to India in 1502 under the command of Estevão da Gama. In 1503 the ship was returning, laden with spices, to Portugal.
In 1505 the ship departed newly to Asia under the command of João da Nova. In 1506, during the return trip, the ship was forced to stop for almost a year in Mozambique for repairs. Because of its enormous size, when it was fully loaded, it was difficult to maneuver. In February 1507 the ship set sail from Mozambique and returned without load in India along with the fleet of Tristão da Cunha.
In the following years the Flor do Mar participated in major battles and events: in 1507 it participated in the conquest of Socotra, Curiate (Kuryat), Muscat, Khor Fakkan, and Ormuz. In 1509 it participated in the naval battle of Diu. The new governor of Portuguese India, Afonso de Albuquerque, used it for the conquest of Goa in 1510, and then for the conquest of Malacca in 1511.
At the end of 1511 after the Portuguese conquest of Malacca and the building of a fortress the Viceroy of India Afonso de Albuquerque prepared his fleet for the return to India.
Against the advice of his captains Albuquerque decided to sail from Malacca in December 1511. He filled his ship – the “Flor do Mar” – with the most beautiful treasures captured in Malacca: gold, silver, precious stones, jewels etc. At the time Malacca was in effect the largest commercial port in the East and Afonso de Albuquerque wished to present the treasures to the court of Manuel I of Portugal.
The ships of the fleet were full of booty taken after the capture of the city, but probably in December 1511 during the return voyage to Goa his ship “Flor do Mar” sank during a storm and all the treasures fetched in Malacca were lost. The ship was in fact sinking along the coast of Sumatra island at the northern end of the Strait of Malacca.
Today a replica of the “Flor de la Mar” is housed in the Maritime Museum in Malacca.