A gold-rimmed portrait necklace, several gold and silver coins and numerous artifacts from a 1715 Spanish fleet were discovered in about 10 feet of water June 19 just off Indian River Shores in Indian River County.
The find was announced Monday by a firm based in Jupiter Island and Sebastian that also said it has acquired the salvage rights to the sunken ships from the heirs of world-famous treasure hunter Mel Fisher. The company plans to ramp up recovery efforts.
In 1715 an 11-ship fleet set sail from Cuba laden with gold bars, coins, diamonds, emeralds and pearls bound for King Philip V of Spain. The bounty included the dowry for Philip’s new bride, Elisabeth, who refused to consummate their marriage until she received it. The ships sank in a hurricane off the Treasure Coast.
“The ships were blown into the reefs and sank, so they’re relatively close to shore,” said Brent Brisben of Sebastian, who with his father, William Brisben of Jupiter Island, formed Queen’s Jewels.
The company then bought from Fisher’s heirs the U.S. admiralty custodianship of the 1715 fleet and the right to salvage the wrecked ships.
The sites of six of the sunken ships have been found, some in only 20 feet of water. But the bulk of the treasure — including the queen’s jewels, estimated to be worth close to $900 million — still hasn’t been recovered.
Capt. Greg Bounds, whose boat “Gold Hound” made the most recent discovery off the coast of Indian River Shores, is one of about 15 subcontractors who have worked with Mel Fisher Treasure and will continue to work with the Brisbens.