HAVANA, July 28 A Florida family hit the jackpot when they found $1 million-worth of gold artefacts, including a royal coin from the Spanish king, recovered from a Spanish ship that sank off the Floridean coast 300 years ago.
The Schmitt family – Rick and Lisa, their two children and daughter-in-law – have been searching for years for lost treasure on their salvage ship Aarrr Booty. Eric Schmitt, Lisa’s 27-year-old son, managed to locate the treasure in 4.5 meters of water off the city of Fort Pierce, Florida.
“Congratulations to the entire Schmitt family and the crew of the Aarrr Booty. Way to go Eric [Schmitt], this is truly remarkable!!!” said 1715 Fleet – Queens Jewels LLC, a group of Historic Shipwreck Salvors focused on the exploration and recovery of the famous vessel, on its Facebook page.
The riches include 51 coins of various denominations, 12 meters of ornate gold chain, according to Brent Brisben, the founder of 1715 Fleet. The chains, made in the shape of tiny, handcrafted, two-sided, six-petalled flowers called “olive blossoms,” were reportedly used as a tax-free coinage.
1715 Fleet owns the rights for the sunken vessel, while the Schmitt family are sub-contractors.
Probably the most notable finding of the family of treasure hunters is a “royal” coin dated 1715 and made for King Phillip V of Spain (1683-1746).
“These finds are important not just for their monetary value, but their historical importance,” Brisben said. “One of our key goals is to help learn from and preserve history, and this week’s finds draw us closer to those truths.”
The 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet was returning from Havana, Cuba, to Spain when it was caught in a hurricane near the present-day city of Vero Beach, Florida. Eleven out of twelve vessels were lost in the disaster. About 1,000 people died, while another 1,500 were able to swim to shore.
Some of the coins from the 300-year-old ship still wash up on the Florida coast from time to time.
Brisbane added that Spanish convoy manifests estimated that the vessels were carrying the equivalent of about $400 million in today’s money, of which $175 million has been recovered so far. He added that he wanted to time the announcement of the treasure’s discovery with the 300th anniversary of the vessels’ sinking on July 31.
The State of Florida will take up to 20 percent of the treasures and display them in local museums. 1715 Fleet and the Schmitt family will split the rest of the booty.