Bells clang as a cascade of gold and silver coins spring forth. Glitzy gold chains sparkle against tanned skin. This vacation hot spot isn’t a luxurious casino on the Vegas strip—it’s the pier at Blue Water Ventures in Key West, FL.
How is this possible? Way back in the summer of 1622, the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha sank 35 miles west of Key West. Treasure hunter Mel Fisher uncovered the wreck in 1985. The Atocha has been called the greatest treasure find in history. So far the shipwreck has yielded over $450 million in gold and silver bars, jewelry, and over 100,000 silver coins called “pieces of eight.” And that’s only half of her manifest! One ton of gold and 300 silver bars are still unaccounted for.
Fisher and his team uncovered two other ancient shipwrecks during their 16-year quest: the Santa Margarita in 1980 and the Henrietta Marie in 1972. The most famous is the Atocha, having been featured on the several TV shows such as the History Channel's TV series Deep Sea Detectives and National Geographic’s Quest for Treasure.
While diving the Atocha is prohibited, it’s sister ship the Santa Margarita has been made available to the general public via an investment vehicle. Interested persons can contact Blue Water Ventures by email or phone for details on becoming part of the scuba diving excavation. Small groups of 6 to 14 people board the dive boat Blue Water Rose and head west to the wreck sites.
Your first find is yours to keep. Anything found thereafter is shared property between you and the venture group. These finds that are shared property can be sold to museums, investors, and collectors around the world. The proceeds of the sale are then split between you and the company. You can also opt to buyout the company’s share if you wish to own the artifact outright. But the memories are yours to keep forever. The crew will take photos of you coming back on board with booty in hand. That photo on your mantle will certainly become a conversation piece!
The wreck of the Margarita only 22 feet beneath the waves so the idea of “deep sea diving” need not enter a person’s mind. Dangerous dives are not to be found in the shoals off Key West. All of the dives surrounding the Key West area are considered recreational dives, also known as Sport Diving, which is suitable for the novice diver. All that is required is a basic scuba diving certification, which isn’t difficult to obtain.
Amber, a dive instructor at Southpoint Divers, used to work for Blue Waters Ventures. With a light in her eye Amber explains how she found a few cannon balls that were dated around 300-400 years old. “They couldn’t be positively identified as belonging to a Spanish galleon,” she says, “but it was still an exciting dive.” Although Amber herself never found any Spanish gold on her dives, she did once find a Civil War era musket barrel. “That was a keeper!” she exclaimed with glee. She said the musket was found in only 16 feet of water.
Captain Jack, who pilots the dive ship named Blue Water Rose, says they frequently find treasure. “We find something valuable like whole coins, pieces of coins, rings, almost every week during the summer,” boasts Captain Jack. “Not every day or every dive but something good comes up every week. You gotta be patient,” he advises.
But the most precious commodities provided by Blue Water Ventures are dreams—the dream of finding buried treasure. Ordinary vacations are copious. When asked, “How was your vacation?” How often have you replied, “I found two gold coins and a ruby while diving on a 400-year-old shipwreck.”