Famed treasure diver who worked with Mel Fisher dies at age 78

Demostenes "Moe" Molinar

By Joe Crankshaw - TCpalm


Demostenes "Moe" Molinar, the diver who found the treasure-laden wreckage of the Spanish galleon "Nuestra Senora de la Atocha" off the Florida Keys, will be buried in private ceremonies this afternoon. While working off the Treasure Coast he found about 7,000 silver coins.

Molinar, a 78-year-old Fort Pierce resident, died April 23.

Molinar is a legend among treasure divers, said Buddy Martin, a longtime diving associate.

"He is highly revered in the treasure salvaging field," Martin said. "He is known worldwide and has been in National Geographic and other publications. Yet he never had an ego you might think would go with that reputation."

Dave Crooks, former vice president of Mel Fisher's Treasure Salvors, said Molinar met Mel Fisher when Fisher's boat broke down in the Panama Canal in 1959.

"Moe fixed it and stayed on board throughout the entire trip," Crooks said. "At the end Mel offered him a job and Moe stayed with Mel until Mel's death."

The energetic Molinar rose from diesel mechanic to boat captain and his boat, the "Virgalona" has become known as the "treasure findingest boat in the business," Martin said.

Molinar was diving with Fisher off the Florida Keys on July 20, 1985 when he found in the sand the first treasure to come from the Atocha. The Atocha had gone down in a storm in 1622. Eventually, there would be 40 tons of gold, 1,000 silver bars, 100,000 silver coins, plus emeralds, rubies and other gems.

In July 1973, Molinar discovered the wreck of the slave ship "Henrietta Marie" that sank in 1700 off the Florida Keys. It is now the basis of a museum on shore.

"Next to Mel Fisher and Bob Weller, Moe has found more gold and treasure in Florida waters than anyone else," Martin said.