Bonnie Schubert couldn’t believe her eyes when, about 1,000 feet off Frederick Douglass Beach near Fort Pierce, she came face to face with a sold gold statue of a bird that had lain under the Atlantic Ocean exactly 295 years and 15 days.
“I remember asking myself, ‘Is this real ?’” Schubert recalled Wednesday as the 5.5-inch-tall statue she found Aug. 15 was revealed to the public at her home in the Vero Shores neighborhood of Vero Beach.
“The Bird,” as it’s come to be known, is real all right.
So is it’s $885,000 appraised value.
The statue was aboard one of 11 Spanish ships laden with treasures from the New World that were bound from Havana to the court of King Phillip V before encountering a hurricane July 31, 1715, and sinking off the Treasure Coast.
Shubert, 49, found the statue as she and her one-person crew — her 87-year-old mother, Jo Schubert — were combing the plot of ocean bottom they’ve been assigned as subcontractors for 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels LLC, a historic shipwreck salvage operation based in Sebastian and Jupiter that acquired rights to the fleet from the heirs of renowned treasure hunter Mel Fisher.
Bonnie Schubert said she had just started to examine a “hole” where several feet of sand had been blown away when she saw the bird.
“I got a hit on the metal detector, and I was hand-fanning away some more sand when I saw it just lying there upright in the sand, absolutely perfect and so impossibly gold,” she said.
“Every time you get a hit on the metal detector, you’re thinking, ‘It’s a gold bar; it’s a silver bar.’ But it’s usually a fishing weight or a beer can.”