“El Oriflama” was built for the French Army in Toulon, in 1743 by engineer and builder Pierre Blaise Coulomb (1699 – 1753); a well recognized member of French Navy builders.
It was a ship of 56 guns which was captured by the British in April 1761, put to merchant use and then seized in December that year by the Spanish who auctioned her as a merchantman to the company of Juan Baptista de Uztaris, Bros & Co.
On February 18 1770 she set sail on her last voyage, leaving Cadiz under the command of Captain Joseph Antonio de Alzaga with Joseph de Zavalsa as Master and Manuel de Buenechea as Pilot. On 25 July she was sighted by the Gallardo, whose captain, Juan Esteban de Ezpeleta, knew de Alzaga. The Gallardo fired a friendly cannon shot but this was unanswered. The First Officer of the Gallardo, Joseph de Alvarez, was sent to investigate and found that the Oriflama had been swept by a mysterious plague. Half the crew had already died, and the rest were dying, with only thirty men barely able to haul a sail.
De Alvarez returned to his ship and a boatload of supplies was prepared, but bad weather drove the ships apart and it was impossible to catch up with the Oriflama. It is said that as the crew of the Gallardo prayed for the safety of the men of the Oriflama, a ghostly light illuminated the latter's sails and she was seen to sail away into the night.
On 28 July wreckage of the Oriflama and some bodies were washed up on the coast of Chile near the mouth of the River Huenchullami.
The following spring Manuel de Amat y Juniet, the Viceroy of Peru sent Juan Antonio de Bonachea, apparently a relative of the Pilot of the Oriflama (Buenechea and Bonachea were interchangeable spellings), with trained divers to search for the wreck, but the search was abandoned in January 1772.
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