On July 24,1715, a fleet of 12 ships left Havana, Cuba to return to Spain with a cargo hold full of treasure. Just one week after setting sail, On July 31, 1715, the fleet was caught up in a hurricane off the coast of Florida and 11 of the 12 ships were lost to the storm after being pushed into the outer edge of a reef. Over 1,000 sailors lost their lives when their ships sunk into the Atlantic Ocean. But they weren’t the only casualties that day, the treasure that was on its way to Spain was also lost to the seas. Since then, the occasional coin would wash up on shore from time to time sparking continued interest in treasure hunters that were hopeful to find the bulk of the treasure laying somewhere along the ocean floor.
Everyone dreams of finding buried treasure or winning the lottery, but very rarely does it actually happen. However, 300 years later of the treasure being lost to the hurricane, a group of treasure hunters struck gold, literally. On July 31, 2015, over 300 gold pieces were found just 15 feet off the Florida Coastline and in only 8 feet of water. The gold coins were found by William Bartlett with his crew consisting of the captain of their boat, Jonah Martinez, and fellow treasure hunter Dan Beckingham.
The 350 gold pieces were sitting on the sandy floor, just 8 feet below the surface of the ocean. They used the propeller of their boat to remove the top layer of sand from the ocean floor in order to reach bedrock, which is where these gold coins were discovered!
It took 5 exciting days to salvage what coins they could from the ocean floor.
“We all enjoy doing this and we all know the odds when we’re out there and finding nothing,” Martinez said. “To be able to go and do that, and then succeed in something like that, is more than any treasure.”
It’s hard to believe that such an amazing treasure was so close to shore and that it took 300 years to find.
The Gold found by Bartlett and his crew is worth an estimated $4.5 million dollars. Bartlett commented that the gold coins were in such great shape, they could have fallen off the ship yesterday.
Although the crew can’t keep the actual gold in their find, it must have been extremely satisfying being able to handle and organize all this gold!
Part of their discover included 9 larger pieces of gold called Royals. Prior to this discovery there were only a reported 20 Royals known in existence. These large gold coins were tokens given out by King Phillip V to other important people in the monarchy as a presentation piece. Each of the Royals are valued at an estimated $300k each
This picture shows the crew as well as Brent Brisben who owns the salvage company Queen’s Jewels which owns the right to the 1715 shipwreck site.
So far $6.5 million dollars worth of gold have been recovered from the disastrous fleet wreck 300 years ago, and there is about 400 million more yet to be discovered. Queen’s Jewels owns the right to the wreck and hires subcontractors, like Bartlett and his crew, to treasure hunt for them. The subcontractors are responsible for all expenses, which could add up to over $50k a summer searching for sunken treasure, but they get to keep a percentage of their find if they happen across any treasure from the 1715 shipwreck. Brisben’s company bought the right to this particular treasure from Mel Fisher who won a court battle in 1980 for the rights because Spain hadn’t shown much interest on the lost treasure even though it originally belonged to Spain. However, the state of Florida did assert rights to any treasure found on their coastline. They get 20% which they will display in their museums!