Florida divers find $4.5mn in gold coins from sunken 18th century Spanish fleet (PHOTOS)
“Over 350 gold coins including 9 Royals were recovered on July 30 & 31. This amazing recovery occurred on the actual 300th Anniversary,” said 1715 Fleet – Queens Jewels LLC, a group of historic shipwreck salvagers, on its Facebook page.
The royal coins are dated 1715 and were minted during the reign of King Phillip V of Spain (1683-1746).
"People love treasure stories. It resonates with everybody — every demographic, young and old, rich and poor," Brent Brisben, the founder of 1715 Fleet, told media. "People freak out that we're literally 10-15 feet (3-4.5 meters) off the beach in 2-3 feet (0.6-0.9 meters) of water."
One of the divers, William Bartlett, who recovered the treasure from the historic fleet, said: “A find like this is the equivalent of winning an Olympic gold medal."
“This is what we [treasure hunters of the 1715 Fleet] all come here to do. For four months out of the year we eat, sleep and live treasure. When we're not actually treasure hunting, we're usually talking about treasure hunting. We hang out with other treasure hunters," said Bartlett.
He told Reuters later that the gold “looks like it fell into the water yesterday."
Brisben told CSB news that the discovery of the treasure coincided with the sinking of the fleet 300 years ago.
"It's been magical," Brisben said. "What's amazing about this is we found it on the actual anniversary. We found 230 gold coins on the 30th, and the hurricane started on the evening of the 30th [in 1715]."
Later on July 31, the divers found 75 more gold coins, he added.
The 1715 fleet was returning from Havana, Cuba, to Spain when it was caught in a hurricane near the present day city of Vero Beach, Florida. Eleven out of 12 vessels were lost in the disaster. About 1,000 people died, while another 1,500 survived and managed to swim to shore.
According Brisben, Spanish convoy manifests estimated that the vessels were carrying the equivalent of about $400 million in today's money, of which about $180 million has been recovered so far.
It looks like that strip of Florida coast is very rich in Spanish treasure: some of the coins from the 300-year-old ship still wash up on the Florida coast from time to time.
Earlier in July, 1715 Fleet – Queens Jewels LLC announced that the Schmitt family from Florida found $1 million worth of gold artifacts, including a royal coin from the Spanish king recovered from the famous fleet.
1715 Fleet owns the rights for the sunken vessels, while the Schmitt family are sub-contractors.
The State of Florida will take up to 20 percent of the treasure and display them in local museums. 1715 Fleet and the Schmitt family will split the rest of the bounty.