If you’ve ever seen a guy waving a metal detector around on an empty beach and immediately judged him as a crazy Illuminati-fearing moon-landing-denier, know this: There’s still plenty of treasure to be found at the bottom of the sea. Including rare gold coins valued at half a million dollars each.
On June 17, a salvage vessel using nothing but a simple metal detector unearthed the remains of a Spanish shipwreck that’s spent the last three centuries collecting barnacles on the seafloor less than a thousand feet off the coast of Fort Pierce, Florida. It turned out to be the haul of a lifetime: Nearly a million dollars worth of gold coins and chains, including an extremely rare Spanish coin known as the Tricentennial Royal that’s worth $500,000. That’s the shiny round one pictured in the middle above.
According to LiveScience:
The ships that once carried the valuables set sail from Cuba on July 24, 1715, when the island was a Spanish colony. The ships’ mission was to transport the riches below deck to Spain, which at the time was waging a war against France and was desperately in need of money to fund battles.
But the ships never made it to Spain. A hurricane off Florida sank all but one of the 12 ships on July 30, 1715. The so-called “1715 Fleet” has been a treasure-hunter’s fantasy ever since. In 2010, Brent Brisben and his father, William, obtained permits to explore the wrecks in search of sunken riches.
A family owned and operated salvage vessel, appropriately named “Aarrr Booty,” was subcontracted to explore several different shipwrecks for Brisben’s company (1715 Fleet Queen Jewels, LLC.) And in June, while diving near Fort Pierce, Aarr Booty’s owners scored big. Their recent haul included 51 gold coins, forty feet of golden chain, and the Tricentennial Royal, one of only six such coins minted for King Philip V of Spain. As Aarrr Booty captain Eric Schmitt told LiveScience, the silver dollar-sized Tricentennial was made by pouring molten gold into a cast, an uncommon procedure in that day and age. It’s unusually round, extremely rare, and incredibly valuable.
Brisben’s salvage company owns the rights to five of the 11 ships that sank in July of 1715, and the latest haul seems to have only whet his appetite. He figures there’s still about $440 million dollars worth of Spanish treasure strewn about on the Florida seafloor, including the queen’s jewels — part of an elaborate dowry that was supposed to be brought to Spain by the ill-fated 1715 fleet.
No one can say whether those elusive jewels, or any other fabled artifacts, will ever be found. But it’s clear that the notion of buried treasure is just as alluring today as it was when pirates ruled the high seas.
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Top image via 1715 Fleet Queens Jewels, LLC