Season 2 of Netflix’s Outer Banks basically has everything: Wild teens, complicated relationship dynamics, and a ton of unexpected plot twists. But the most compelling aspect of the show remains the same as Season 1: The Royal Merchant. Viewers may expect the highly sought-after treasure to be a fictionalized detail created for the show, but it’s not as simple as that. So, is the Royal Merchant treasure on Outer Banks real?
In the series, the Royal Merchant is a well-known historical artifact that everyone on the island is aware of — a ship that sunk sometime in the 1800s near the Outer Banks. Along with the fact that there were no known survivors from the wreck (minus Denmark Tanney, who the Pogues discovered actually did make it out alive), legend has it that there was also $400 million in British gold that sunk with the passengers. The show revolves around John B.’s effort to find the gold, and, in turn, uncover out what happened to his missing father.
That short version of all this? It’s a fictional story made to entice viewers into a fun and adventurous Netflix show. However, it may have some basis in reality.
While there isn’t an actual ship called the Royal Merchant, there was one called the Merchant Royal. Also dubbed the “El Dorado of the seas,” the Merchat Royal sunk 200 years earlier and in a different location than than its fictionalized counterpart — specifically on September 23, 1641, off the coast of England. Although the ship wasn’t carrying as much gold as The Royal Merchant, according to USA Today, it’s said to have gone down with 100,000 pounds of gold and 400 bars of Mexican silver. The cause for the wreck? Not unlike the storms the Pogues dealt with in Outer Banks Season 1, the Merchant Royal was said to have encountered bad weather on its way back to Britain from Mexico.
In 2019, an anchor from the Merchant Royal was recovered in a fishing net near Land’s End, Cornwall. And while the discovery may have piqued the curiosity of some hoping it would lead them to the gold, co-founder of Cornwall Maritime Archaeology, Mark Wilburn, warned that looking for the treasure would be a very dangerous and pointless venture.
Good thing the Pogues don’t mind a little danger.
Outer Banks Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.