A museum for sunken treasure hunters

Doug Pope, who recently opened The Maritime Museum of Amelia Island at 1335 S. Eighth St., holds a timber salvaged from an ancient shipwreck off Fernandina Beach, left

By Angela Daughtry - News-Leader

Everyone knows about Amelia Island's pirate heritage, but what about the possibility of priceless sunken treasures in our surrounding waters ?

According to Doug Pope, president of Amelia Research and Recovery of Fernandina Beach, there is a good chance the San Miguel - a Spanish galleon that sunk in 1715 - could be submerged in the waters of Amelia Island.

An experienced treasure salvager, Pope plans to search for the legendary ship and its treasures in the near future.

In the meantime, with help from friends, volunteers and donations, Pope has opened The Maritime Museum of Amelia Island at 1335 S. Eighth St.

The museum has on display many marine artifacts that have been salvaged from historic shipwrecks around the Florida coast, and will focus on the shrimping industry and the U.S. Navy submarine program, as well as the salvaged shipwreck items.

Most of the shipwreck artifacts were displayed at the Amelia Island Museum of History until 2004, according to Pope. Then they found a home at the dive shop at Hall's Beach Store. Now the ancient marine artifacts can once again be properly displayed in their own museum.

Pope says the museum will eventually have a research center, a reference library, a chart room, WiFi and other rooms dedicated to different historic time frames. It will also be an outlet for people who want to sell salvaged treasures, and eventually there will also be a museum store, he said.

There will be no charge to enter the museum, he said, but anyone who donates $5 or more will receive a free poster that identifies different sharks' teeth.

"We want to share all we can with the community," Pope said. "One of our main focuses will be the shrimp industry." Local shrimper David Cook has offered to donate photographs and artifacts highlighting the island's shrimping history, says Pope.

Pope is also bringing back to Fernandina Beach the Polly-L, a 71-foot research boat that will be located in the ocean waters near the end of Sadler Road.

Pope said he plans to do treasure diving within the next few months in search of the San Miguel, a frigate that sailed from Spain in 1715 and was sunk in the waters north of St. Augustine.


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