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Updated on October 17, 2013

Sunken Treasue In Florida

Who doesn't love buried treasure? The thrill of the hunt along with the excitement of actually finding a piece of history. It is even better when that piece of history could make you very rich!!

This lens should help future visitors to and current residents in Florida find sunken treasure off of Florida coastline. The Lens will help people find diving schools, charters and actual ship locations along with the legalities of salvaging a wreck off a Florida coastline.

Some Florida Maritime History

Why so many sunken ships?

Florida has always been ripe with European history. It has been a focal point for early European settlement and a major player in commerce to and from the New World. In the 15th and early 16th centuries European explorers sailed west and ran into the Americas while looking for a faster route by sea to Asia. The first to arrive in Florida was the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce De Leon in 1513. He landed around what is now St Augustine. He named the new found land " La Florida" which means " Flowery Land". He later tried to circumnavigate Florida as he thought it was a huge island. He got as far as Tampa. Ponce De Leon was followed by fellow Spaniards Spaniard Pánfilo de Narváez, Hernando de Soto and Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano. Their efforts finished mapping the entire Florida coastline.

In 1562, the Frenchman Jean Ribaut came to the new world and marked a point on the St John's river for futur colonization. he then went north up the coast to establish Charlesfort in what is now Parris Island, South Carolina. 1564, René Goulaine de Laudonnière led the settlers of the failed colony back to Florida built Fort Caroline in what is now Jacksonville.

In 1565, Spaniard Pedro Menéndez de Avilés took Fort Caroline from the French and established St. Augustine, which was the first permanent European colony in the continental United States. Then in 1568, the French explorer Dominique de Gourgues retook Fort Caroline. In response to the constant French threat the Spanish built a watchtower at Matanzas Inlet in 1569 to watch and warn St. Augustine of approaching ships. That worked up until 1586 when the English pirate Sir Francis Drake sacked the city. For the next 150 years, the Spanish sent yearly convoys of merchant and military ships from Cuba to Spain. These were known as the Spanish plate fleets. These ships were filled with gold, silver and jewels from the mines of Peru and Mexico. These ships would be homeward bound to Spain and have to use the Gulf Stream through the Straits of Florida and up the coast of North America before heading east. This prompted the Spanish to build forts all along the coastline to protect these ships. Forts like Castillo de San Marcos and other settlements were built to protect against French and English pirates and attackers. These ports also provided rescue and salvage stations for the ships that were lost due to Florida's notorious and deadly hurricanes and storms. It is why the entire coastline of Florida is a massive graveyard for sunken ships from the 1500's to the present day. Some of these ships have never been found since their recorded sinking and some have . The ones that have have yielded immense wealth for their locators.


Below is a video of Ponce De Loen's story

Treasure Finds

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Some of the more famous wrecks

There are so many shipwrecks that if you dotted them along the coastline of Florida you could draw a complete line around the state.

So here is a list of some more noted wrecks. I will get into the Atocha and Mel Fisher later in this squidoo.

When describing the treasure on these boats there will be mentions of pesos. Back then a “peso” was not a coin but a unit of monetary value. It equaled 1 1/8 ounce troy of silver.

In 1555, only one ship, the “Santa Maria Del Camino,“ 200 tons, commanded by Captain Alonzo Martin Morejon, She took on 1.8 million pesos in gold and silver in Panama and then an unspecified amount of gold, emeralds and pearls in Cartagena, Colombia.

In 1563, the 250 ton galleon, “La Madalena,” commanded by Capt. Cristobel Rodriquez, 50 tons of silver in bullion and specie (coins), 170 boxes of worked silver (like candle sticks, plates, etc.), 1,110 pounds of gold in small ingots and jewelry, plus other valuables belonging to passengers. two of her bronze cannon ( values at 30k a piece and a chest with some 3000 coins has been found so far.

In 1571, two galleons, the “San Ignacio,” 300 tons, Capt. Juan de Canovas, with 22 iron cannon; and the “Santa Maria de la Limpia Concepcion,” 340 tons, Between them they carried over 2,500,000 pesos in treasure . The survivors reached St. Augustine in two longboats.

In 1589, the Almiranta of the Flota de Tierra Firme, “La Magdalena,“ 650 tons, commanded by Captain Antonio Jorge Laden with over 1.25 million pesos in treasure developed a bad leak during a hurricane. The galleon went down north of Miami in very deep water. No manifest existed but the ship was carrying treasure.

In 1600, an unnamed 200 ton ship commanded by a Captain Diego Rodriquez Garrucho carrying over 700,000 pesos in treasure, including 245 chests of valuable goods from the Orient. Chinese porcelain, beautiful worked pieces of gold and jewelry, precious stones, etc.

In 1611 the Santa Ana Maria del Juncal sank off Cabo de Apalachi. Carrying several million pesos in silver bullion and specie.

In 1624, the Spanish galleon “El Espiritu Santo El Mayor,“ 480 tons, commanded by Captain Antonio de Soto, was lost in the Bahama Channel. Cargo of 2.2 million pesos

In 1683, the “Santissima Concepcion,” alias “El Grande,” only four reached the coast on debris and made it to St. Augustine after a hurricane. Carrying over 1,800,000 pesos in treasure, the majority of which was silver bullion and specie. Total gold bullion, specie and worked gold only weighed at around 1,500 pounds. Carried ten times this amount as contraband. Also carried 77 chests of pearls, 49 chests of emeralds, 217 chests of “goods from the Orient.

In 1733 “El Aviso,” a dispatch boat and is located on the south end of Pacific Reef. 2. “El Infante,” was a 60-gun galleon and the position is on Little Conch Reef. 3. “San Jose,” is thought to be the Capitana and is on Crocker Reef. 4. Seven merchantmen were sunk between Upper Matecumbe and Long Key. 5. “Almiranta,” a 58-gun galleon and is off Long Key Point. 6. “San Fernando,” another merchantmen, and is somewhere off Grassy Key in 40 feet of water. These are most of the 1733 shipwrecks, and all are in comparatively shallow water (10 to 40 feet). Any one of them could hold a large amount of treasure.

In 1755 a French ship named “Notre Dame de la Deliverance” disappeared without a trace somewhere between Havana and Cadiz. 1,170 pounds of gold bullion carried in seventeen chests, 15,399 gold doubloons, 153 gold snuff boxes weighing 6 ounces each, a gold-hilted sword, a gold watch, 1,072,000 pieces of eight, 764 ounces of virgin silver, 31 pounds of silver ore, a large number of items made of silver, six pairs of diamond earrings, a diamond ring, several chests of precious stones, plus general cargo consisting of Chinese fans, cocoa, drugs, and indigo.

Shipwreck Location Websites

These are some great sites and information showing shipwrecks in Florida. Once the government shut lifts I will add the national parks list to this - Has a great map feature that shows you Long and Lat where the ship should be!! - great list of ships

check out Google Books - Shipwrecks In Florida A Comprehensive Listing By Steven D. Singer

Treasure Hunting Books

Encyclopedia of Florida Shipwrecks, Volume I: Atlantic Coast
Encyclopedia of Florida Shipwrecks, Volume I: Atlantic Coast

In Depth List of all known Florida Shipwrecks

Treasure Coast
Treasure Coast

Florida's Treasure Coast

Florida's Treasure Coast includes the coastal regions of Indian River, St. Lucie, and Martin Counties. It got it's name because of the discovery of the 1715 Spanish Fleet which was all but destroyed during a hurricane in 1715 off the coast of what is now Vero Beach. Accounts of treasure washing up along the shorelines after heavy storms has been a constant for this region ever since the fateful July hurricane.

the 1715 Treasure Fleet was a group of 12 Spanish ships that went down. Salvage operations early on have recovered some of the treasure but Mel Fisher has brought up a lot of the 1715 treasure fleets booty. The Mel Fisher Museum in Sebastian house some exhibits feature original Spanish Fleet treasure.

Mel Fisher , The Greatest Treasure Hunter

Mel Fisher was an American treasure hunter renowned for finding the 1622 wreck of the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha. on July 20, 1985. He recovered an estimated $450 million from the wreck. It was known as "The Atocha Motherlode," It included 40 tons of gold and silver; 14,000 Spanish silver coins known as "pieces of eight", gold coins, Colombian emeralds, gold and silver artifacts, and 1000 silver ingots. As much as this is it is only half of what went down with the Atocha. The stern castle is yet to be found. It is said to contain the remainder of the ship treasure. In addition to the Atocha, Fisher's company, Salvors Inc., has found several other ships in Florida waters including the Atocha's sister ship the Santa Margarita and the slave ship the Henrietta Marie.

The Atocha is still giving up it's treasure to Fisher's company. Emeralds from the Atocha are part of the Muzo Mine in Columbia and are considered the best in the world. Fisher passed away in 1998 but his legacy continues on.

Treasures Of The Atocha

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A Muzo EmeraldGold barsMel Fisher With Long Gold Chains
A Muzo Emerald
A Muzo Emerald
Gold bars
Gold bars
Mel Fisher With Long Gold Chains
Mel Fisher With Long Gold Chains

Books And Video About the Atocha Find

Great Videos About Mel Fisher And The Atocha

Florida Shipwreck Diving Videos

A collection of videos showing divers on various Florida Shipwrecks. It gives you a glimpse of what you might see when diving on these ships.

The Eagle is a 268 ft freight vessel that was sank in 1985 and lies on her starboard side in 110 feet of water three miles northeast of Alligator Reef Light, 6 miles from Islamorada Key in Florida.

Great dive showing the ship and it's residents

Diving a wreck through a GoPro camera

A Civil Warship in Key Largo.

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Duane is 327-foot long & lies upright on a sandy bottom in 120 feet of water one mile south of Molasses Reef off Key Largo.

Very cool dive video!!

Atlantic Coast of Florida

Shipwreck Coordinates: Latitude 2619.494 Longitude 8003.024 Deep 177 feet.

The Hydro Atlantic is one of South Florida's most popular technical wrecks.

The tug is cool but the vid of the wall of fish is equally impressive!!

This shipwreck is located off the coast of Pompano Beach in Broward County and charter boats leave daily from local dive shops.

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