- A Florida family has been rewarded for years of treasure hunting after finding gold artefacts worth $1m or more from the wreckage of a 1715 Spanish fleet that sank in the Atlantic, according to a salvage company.
The find included 51 gold coins of various denominations and 40ft (12m) of ornate gold chain, said Brent Brisben, whose company, 1715 Fleet – Queens Jewels LLC, owns the rights to the wreckage.
The Schmitt family, who hunt for treasure off their salvage vessel Aarrr Booty, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Brisben said he timed the announcement to coincide with Friday’s 300th anniversary of the sinking of 11 galleons brought down by a hurricane off the coast of Florida, as the convoy was sailing from Havana to Spain.
Eric Schmitt found the artefacts in 15ft (4.5m) of water off Fort Pierce, approximately 130 miles (210km) north of Miami.
The Spanish convoy’s manifests indicated the ships carried cargo valued today at about $400m (£257m), of which $175m had been recovered, Brisben said.
His company bought the rights to the site in 2010 from heirs of treasure hunter Mel Fisher. The firm allows others, including the Schmitts, to search under subcontract agreements.
The centrepiece of the Schmitts’ latest find is a perfect specimen of a coin called a royal, made for Spain’s King Phillip V and dated 1715. Only a few royals were known to exist, according to a news release from Brisben’s company.
The gold chains are made of small, handcrafted, two-sided links of six-petalled olive blossoms. They were called money chains and are believed to have been used as a tax-free coinage, the news release said.
Under federal and state law, Florida will take possession of up to 20% of the find for display in a state museum. Brisben’s company and the Schmitt family would split the remainder, Brisben said.