Largest Underwater Treasures That You Didn’t Know About

By Alex Lemaire

The underwater world has fascinated humans since antiquity. It is a mysterious world where we can find amazing beauty and experience unforgettable adventures. It is also full of shipwrecks that were loaded with precious treasures. In this article, I’ll share with you five of the largest underwater treasures ever discovered.

1715 treasure fleet 

In 1715, a Spanish fleet of 12 ships was heading from Cuba to Spain. However, they were hit by a hurricane a few days after departure. Only one ship survived. The rest sank with their precious cargo (gold and silver) a few miles away from Florida.

The shipwrecks remained underwater for more than 250 years until they were discovered by the famous treasure hunter Mel Fisher. The treasure is surprisingly easy to reach. Some of the artifacts are only 30 miles (48 km) away from the shore and only 15 feet (4.5 meters) deep.

Mel Fisher sold the exclusive salvage rights to Queens Jewels, LLC. Now, they are the only ones allowed to dive in this location. However, if an item is washed to shore and you find it, it’s yours. Recently, Jonah Martinez found 22 silver coins from this fleet using a metal detector. The owner of Queens Jewels, LLC., has salvaged 4.5 million dollars’ worth of gold and silver so far, though there are more valuable items still underwater to this day. 

Nuestra Señora de Atocha 

This is a Spanish galleon that sank in 1622 because of a hurricane. Only a few passengers survived after climbing to the ship’s mizzen, which remained above the water. Spanish salvagers were unable to recover the entire cargo.

Fast forward more than three hundred years later. Señora de Atocha was discovered by the famous Mel Fisher in 1985. It wasn’t an easy task. He spent nearly 16 years searching for this shipwreck. Small discoveries here and there convinced him that he was getting closer and closer. 

He discovered a few silver bars and bronze cannons before finding the ship’s main body. It was in the Florida Keys, 56 feet (17 meters) underwater. The cargo is estimated to be worth 400 million dollars. 

The ship was loaded with 40 tons of gold and silver. The cargo also included Colombian emeralds. These are the finest and most precious in the world. The captain’s cabin and the sterncastle haven’t been located to date. The most precious items are usually stored there. Some of the recovered items are currently on display at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West.

SS Republic 

The SS Republic is a paddlewheel steamship that was heading from Georgia to New Orleans. It sank in October 1865. Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. located the shipwreck in August 2003. It was 100 miles (160 km) off the coast of Georgia and 1,700 feet (500 meters) underwater.

The main body of the vessel is gone. However, parts of the rudder, paddle wheel, and steam engine are relatively preserved. Even still, this is not what the crew was looking for. The ship was loaded with $400,000 of gold and silver coins. 

More than 750 coins were recovered, many of which were well preserved. The team also managed to salvage other items that held a great historical value like the ship’s bell. The entire expedition was documented by National Geographic.

Black Swan Project 

This is another treasure discovered by Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. They nicknamed the expedition Black Swan Project. In total, the company recovered 17 tons of silver. Later, it was shipped to Florida where it was to be hidden in secret locations.

However, nobody could keep this kind of news secret for long, and on May 18th, 2007, the news became public. The Spanish Government proved that this is the cargo of Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, a Spanish ship that sank in 1804.

Unfortunately for Gregory Stemm, the CEO of Odyssey Marine company, US courts ruled that the treasure needs to be sent back to Spain and his company had to pay the Spanish Government $1 million as compensation for moral damage.

Portions of the discovery had been displayed at a museum in Spain for a few months. The Spanish government also sent a group of underwater archeologists to examine the shipwreck, which is located near the Portuguese coasts. Unfortunately, they found the wreck was damaged during Odyssey’s expedition.

SS Central America 

SS Central America, commonly known as the Ship of Gold, was a side-wheel steamer. It was 280 feet (85 meters) long. This ship was made during the California gold rush, specifically to transport Gold from Panama to New York.

In her last trip, she fell victim to a hurricane and sank in 1857 off the coast of the Carolinas in the United States. The ship was loaded with 20 tons of gold valued around $54 million.

In 1988, the shipwreck was located at a depth of 7,200 feet (2,200 meters) underwater. Tommy Thompson used historical data and mathematics (Bayesian search theory) to find the Ship of Gold. However, it was too deep for divers, so remotely operated underwater vehicles were used instead.

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