Tag Archives: Nuestra Señora de Atocha

Wednesday’s Words: Mel Fisher, Treasure Hunter Extraordinaire

“TODAY’S THE DAY!” (Mel Fisher’s Motto)

Mel Fisher3Mel Fisher (1922 – 1998) spent sixteen years searching for the wreck of Nuestra Señora de Atocha (“Our Lady of Atocha”), the most famous of the Spanish ships lost in a hurricane in 1622. It was a royal guard galleon with 40 tons of gold and silver aboard which sank in a devastating hurricane along with others in 1622.

After they found the ship in 1985, in keeping with his “today’s the day!” optimism, Mel commented later:

“I think that perseverance has paid. That’s one of the main things, just hang in there and do your thing and when people try to tear you down or get jealous, just let it go in one ear and out the other and keep on going.”

To learn more about Mel and his family and their enterprise check out their webpage http://www.melfisher.com/default.html. Interested parties can dive one of the wrecks or buy some of the treasures.

(On a personal note, after the treasure was discovered, I attended a tour of the Atocha treasures when it was shown at a jewelry store in Mobile, AL (my home town) .  Kicking self now because I didn’t buy some of the coins which were for sale for MUCH less than they cost today.)

Photo of Mel Fisher from melfisher.com.
Tomorrow, Thursday Redux

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The Wreck of Nuestra Señora de Atocha

Atoche shipNuestra Señora de Atocha (“Our Lady of Atocha”) was the most famous ship of a fleet of Spanish  twenty-eight ships caught in a late-summer hurricane in 1622. The ship, built in Havana in 1620, was a three-masted galleon of 500 tons constructed of mahogany. She was 113 feet long and carried twenty guns with a crew of one hundred and ten. The Atocha sank off the Florida Keys in approximately fifty-five feet of water, but was never located by the Spanish when they attempted to salvage the sunken fleet.

The ship, named for the parish of Atocha in Madrid, carried copper, silver, gold, tobacco, gems, jewels, jewelry, and indigo. The Atocha had remained in Veracruz longer than planned before rendezvousing in Havana with the vessels of the Tierra Firme (Mainland) Fleet. The treasure arriving by mule to Panama City had been so immense that it took 2 months to record and load the precious cargo.

imagesULU8B9JLAfter more delays, the fleet, including the Atocha, left Havana on September 4th.  Two days out, the Atocha was driven by a severe hurricane onto the coral reefs off the Dry Tortugas – about thirty-five miles west of Key West.  With her hull badly damaged, the vessel sank quickly, drowning everyone on board except for three sailors and two slaves.

When the surviving ships reported the loss, the Spanish attempted to salvage the ships. Over ten years, the Spanish managed to retrieve about half the treasure from the Santa Magarita which had run aground. A second hurricane in October hampered salvage attempts by scattering the wreckage. The loss of the fleet forced Spain to borrow money and sell several galleons to finance the Thirty Years War.

Tomorrow, Wednesday’s Words: Mel Fisher, Treasure Hunter Extraordinaire

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This Week in History: The Treasure Ship Nuestra Señora de Atocha

Atocha mapThis Week in History the discovery of  Nuestra Señora de Atocha (“Our Lady of Atocha”) on July 20, 1985 is rivaled only by the King Tut’s treasure. Mel Fisher and his investors in Treasure Salvors had searched for the wreck for over sixteen years. Imagine the celebration when Mel’s son, Kane, radioed the news from the salvage boat Dauntless to Treasure Salvors headquarters on the Florida coast when the wreck was discovered.

Nuestra Señora de Atocha (“Our Lady of Atocha”) sank in 1622 off the Florida Keys while carrying an estimated $400,000,000 in treasure. In 1980 Fisher had salvaged part of the Atocha’s sister ship, Santa Margarita,  which had run aground in the same storm, but the Spanish had managed to salvage much of it already. The Spanish, however, had been unable to locate the Atocha with its treasure of silver, gold, and emeralds.

GoldUnderwaterThe professional divers were working for  minimum wage when they found the treasure which included stacks of silver bars, chests of silver coins, gold, jewels, and thousands of other unique artifacts from the Nuestra Senora de Atocha. The forty tons of salvaged coins, both gold and silver, were minted primarily between 1598 and 1621.

After the discovery, the Florida claimed title to the wreck and forced Fisher into a contract giving 25% of the found treasure to the state. After eight years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Fisher in July, 1992.

Atoche goldWhat now? The sterncastle, the part of the ship that would hold most of the gold and emeralds, is still missing from the shipwreck. These and other valuable items would have been stored in the Captain’s cabin for safekeeping in the rear part of the Atocha. In June 2011, Fisher treasure divers from found an antique emerald ring believed to be from the wreck of the Spanish ship. The ring is worth an estimated $500,000. The ring was found 35 miles from Key West with two silver spoons and other artifacts. Who knows what else lies beneath the waves?

Tomorrow, The Wreck of Nuestra Señora de Atocha

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