300-year-old sunken treasure offers more than gold coins Treasure hunter Brent Brisben, captain and owner of 1715 Fleet - Queens Jewels LLC, displays their recent discovery of more than 350 gold coins valued at $4.5 million found off the coast of Wabasso Beach on July 30-31, 2015, during a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015 in Sebastian, Fla. (Eric Hasert/The Stuart News via AP)
300-year-old sunken treasure offers more than gold coins
Lexile

Diver William Bartlett had just started exploring a 300-year-old shipwreck with a metal detector late last month in the waters off Florida's Atlantic Coast. That is when he found his first Spanish gold coin. Then one coin became two and two became so many he had to stuff them into his diving glove.
 
When he resurfaced, "every fingertip was stacked with gold coins. And we knew then we were into something super special," the captain of his boat, Jonah Martinez, said.
 
Over the next two days, Martinez, Bartlett and another treasure hunter, Dan Beckingham, found 350 coins worth $4.5 million. It is the most valuable find from the 1715 shipwreck site in recent decades.
 
Eleven treasure-laden ships that made up the 1715 fleet were heading to Spain from Havana on July 31, 1715. They encountered a hurricane off Florida's central coast. The winds and waves smashed the ships onto reefs. As many as 1,000 lives were lost in one of colonial Spain's biggest maritime disasters off Florida.
 
Now it's turning out to be a treasure trove.
 
In June, a family of treasurer hunters found $1 million in gold coins in an area south of the latest discovery.
 
The latest group of treasure hunters to find millions of dollars in gold coins from the 1715 fleet shipwrecks said they believe "magic" has played a role. The discoveries this summer have come on the 300th anniversary of the sinking of Spanish colonial galleons.
 
"We all enjoy doing this, and we all know the odds when we're out there and finding nothing," Martinez said. "To be able to go and do that, and then succeed in something like that, is more than any treasure."
 
They expect more discoveries to come. About $400 million in coins are still undiscovered. The search is in a coastal area, stretching from Melbourne to Fort Pierce. The area is known as Florida's Treasure Coast.
 
"Five years ago, before I got into this business, I would have told you that magic is in fairy tales," said Brent Brisben, whose salvage company, Queens Jewels, owns rights to the 1715 fleet shipwreck site.
 
"I truly now believe that there is an energy that pervades these shipwrecks, that I can't quantify. I truly believe that these shipwrecks wanted their story to continue. That this magically happened on this anniversary because this story still needs to be told, and it's currently unfolding."
 
Anywhere from a dozen to two dozen subcontractors have signed up with Brisben's company to search the shipwreck site each summer. The subcontractors are responsible for their boats, crew and other expenses. That can tally up to $50,000 each summer.
 
Brisben's company purchased the salvage rights to the shipwreck five years ago from the family of treasure hunter Mel Fisher. In the 1980s, Fisher won a lengthy court battle for the rights to the shipwrecks. During the legal battle, the Spanish government never asserted an interest on the lost treasure. So it has no claim on it. The state of Florida did assert a claim. It's entitled to 20 percent of found artifacts for display in a museum in Tallahassee. The remaining discoveries are split between Brisben's company and whoever finds the treasure after a federal judge in Miami signs off on it.
 
For any treasure found washed up on land, "it's finders, keepers," Brisben said.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How is this discovery a story of both tragedy and success?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (212)
  • Jason0421-YYCA
    8/27/2015 - 08:23 p.m.

    I think that it is amazing for William Bartlett to have found so many gold coins. I think that being able to have find gold coins means that you are really lucky or you are really skilled. I believe that it is not considered magic because ship wrecks are not considered magic. I think that they are just really skilled to have found something that is very deep in the sea.

  • Brandon1231-YYCA
    8/27/2015 - 09:14 p.m.

    A man went to dive and found something amazing. This amazing this was gold coins that were in the hundreds. They were amazing and they all add up to 4.5 million dollars just for finding 350 gold coins that were really old. That is a lot of money and that person can do many things with that money.

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    8/27/2015 - 09:33 p.m.

    I think this discovery is amazing because this is the most valuable find from the 1715 Spanish shipwreck site. I wonder how people found out that there were $400 million in coins left. It sucks because 20 percent has to be given to Florida's government instead of keeping everything to share among others.
    How is this discovery a story of both tragedy and success?
    Answer: This discovery is both a tragedy and a success because the shipwreck site was colonial Spain's biggest maritime tragedy and a success because this was the biggest find.

  • brandomt-mil
    8/28/2015 - 09:39 a.m.

    Tragedy- 1,000s of people died, $400 million still lost.
    Success- $4.5 million was found

  • kaileym-mil
    8/28/2015 - 09:43 a.m.

    It's what some would call a tragedy, simply because of the fact that these ships all have sunk and multiple lives were lost. The success is in the discovery in where that ship has been for the years uncovered and the wealth of the treasure found. The legacy of the ships can continue now that they are being found.

  • logano-mil
    8/28/2015 - 09:43 a.m.

    It's a success for finding that much money just sitting in some old ship, but tragedy because the man who found it does not get all of the profit of his own findings.

  • santfordr-mil
    8/28/2015 - 09:43 a.m.

    It is a tragedy because so many lives where lost when the ships sunk but it is a success because of finding all of the gold coins

  • thomasm-mil
    8/28/2015 - 09:44 a.m.

    It is a success because the treasure hunters found what they have been looking for and get a reward out out of it. Tragedy wise that the shipwreck is no longer in the original condition and items are being taken from a piece of history. ,

  • ryang-1-mil
    8/28/2015 - 09:44 a.m.

    Finders keepers, don't think the state should be able to take it from him, they wouldn't know about it if it wasn't for brisben.

  • ethanw-1-mil
    8/28/2015 - 09:44 a.m.

    I feel like this story is a tragedy because of the +1,000 lives that were lost in the shipwrecks. On the other hand this story is a success because they actually found treasure and on the 300th anniversary of the shipwreck which will help the story be told.

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