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It may not have been a mountain of pirate treasure, but archaeologists have discovered remnants of a centuries-old shipwreck that they believe inspired the movie “The Goonies.”
A team of volunteers unearthed over 20 pieces of wood in a cave off the Oregon coast in June. It turned out to be wreckage from a Spanish galleon called the Santo Cristo de Burgos, also known as the Beeswax Wreck.
After the vessel capsized in 1693, locals found pieces of cargo washed ashore – including chunks of beeswax, giving the wreck its name, said Scott Williams, president of the Maritime Archaeological Society, an Oregon-based organization that worked on the excavation of the wreck.
An Oregon local was searching for agate gemstones along the coast when he discovered some of the timber a few years ago, Williams said. The resident said he had heard stories of the Beeswax Wreck since he was a child, which led him to believe the beams were more than driftwood, Williams added.
It took nearly two years to organize a team to excavate the remaining known timbers, between delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the time it took to secure the correct permits, he said.
The team found the timbers in a rocky area at the base of sea cliffs that were only exposed at very low tides, Williams said. This meant there was only a small window of time when the wood could be safely retrieved.
Based on their size and shape, Williams’ team thinks the pieces made up parts of the ship’s lower hull, such as the ribs or supports, as well as the upper hull’s decking.
A shipwreck for the silver screen
Researchers believe the timbers came from the Santo Cristo de Burgos that capsized near Astoria, Oregon, while sailing from the Philippines to Acapulco, Mexico. Countless explorers and settlers in the region wrote of the wreck and the cargo pieces they had discovered in the centuries that followed, Williams said.
While the Beeswax Wreck may not be overflowing with gold, there are many similarities between it and the ship from “The Goonies,” Williams said, given its location on the Oregon coast and the mystery surrounding its fate.
Steven Spielberg may have gotten inspiration from these stories to write and produce the classic film “The Goonies.” The 1985 movie follows a group of teenagers in Astoria who embark on an expedition to find a long-lost pirate’s treasure they believe is hidden along the Oregon coast.
CNN reached out to Amblin Entertainment, Inc., Steven Spielberg’s production company, about the discovery, but Amblin representatives have not responded for comment.
The timbers are being analyzed at the curation facility of the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Williams said.
His team hopes to publish additional details on the discovery in a scientific journal to aid in future research. They will also be looking for more parts of the wreck using magnetometers and sonar, Williams said.