Treasure divers find `grand slam' of silver, gold, gems

Shipwreck off Fla. Keys was discovered years ago

July 30, 1999|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

KEY WEST, Fla. -- Treasure hunters diving off the Florida Keys uncovered gold, silver and emeralds from newly found parts of a shipwreck first discovered years ago by legendary salvager Mel Fisher.

Divers from the late Fisher's Treasure Salvors company found the hoard, which is believed to be from the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha or its sister ship the Santa Margarita, near the Dry Tortugas islands off Key West.

Key West-based Treasure Salvors is calling the find a "grand slam," for its combination of silver coins, gold and gems, said spokesman Pat Clyne, speaking through a Treasure Salvors employee in Key West.

Clyne and most of the company's staff, including one of Fisher's sons, were diving at the site yesterday, and the artifacts' value or number was not immediately known.

This is the most significant find by Treasure Salvors since Fisher died in December of bladder cancer at 76.

Fisher was best-known for the 1985 discovery of the shipwrecked Atocha, which sank during a hurricane off Key West in 1622. The Atocha contained what has been claimed to be $400 million in gold, silver, emeralds and other collectibles.

Many treasures from the less-famous Santa Margarita, which went down in the same storm as the Atocha, had been recovered by 1980. By then, Fisher had found gold bars, jewelry and silver coins.

On May 12, 1980, Fisher's son Kane discovered a complete section of the Margarita's wooden hull with iron cannon balls and other artifacts.

The two galleons were among 28 ships that sailed together past the southern tip of Florida on their way from Havana to Spain, loaded with silver from Peru and Mexico and gold and emeralds from Colombia, according to Treasure Salvors research.

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