Florida treasure hunters made one sick find lurking beneath the ocean’s surface

Jul 1, 2024

There is a massive number of historical relics still hidden in the ocean.

But it requires good fortune and patience to discover an artifact from the past. 

And Florida treasure hunters made one sick find lurking beneath the ocean’s surface. 

Divers recover silver coins from a 300-year-old shipwreck 

Over 300 years ago a fleet of Spanish galleons set sail from Cuba that were filled to the brim with riches from the New World like gold, silver, and gems.

A hurricane slammed into the Spanish fleet on July 31, 1715, and sank 11 of the ships in the Atlantic Ocean off of what’s today Sebastian, Florida. 

The galleons and the vast fortune they sought to bring to Spain have resided on the ocean floor for centuries.

A group of Florida treasure hunters has been trying to recover relics from these sunken galleons known as the 1715 Treasure Fleet.

And the treasure hunters found hundreds of silver coins buried in the watery depths during a recent diving expedition.

“You don’t expect that,” boat captain Grant Gitschlag told FOX 35. “You always hope for it, but you never expect it.”

Treasure hunter Corinne Lea said that the group didn’t expect to find anything but noted this is “how the greatest finds come about.”

“It’s the find. It’s all about the find,” Lea added. “I love the history, being the first person up in 309 years to find what was once lost in a tragedy.”

214 coins and other ancient relics were recovered from the sunken Spanish galleons.

“To get this kind of quantity in a period of a couple of days is a very exciting start,” Gitschlag stated.

Treasure hunters for hire are exploring the ocean 

1715 Fleet Queens Jewels LLC owner Sal Guttuso contracted the treasure hunters to search the shipwrecks.

He was named the custodian of the 1715 Fleet by U.S. District Courts and given salvaging rights.

Now he’s in the process of trying to restore the coins after they spent centuries in the ocean.

“It’s more about the historical value than the cash value,” Guttuso said. “Valuation can be tricky. Usually money values on these items only can be established once the items have been sold, and many of these will not be sold but go into Florida museums and private collections of the finders or owners of our company.”

Gitschlag, Lea, Mike Penninger, and Nick Amelio searched for the Spanish treasure from the boat, Lily May.

The treasure hunters have been exploring the 1715 fleet for years.

350 gold coins worth an estimated $4.5 million were found in the sunken galleons in 2015.

“These wrecks have been salvaged for many years, and it gets harder to go out there and find stuff,” Gitschlag said. “When we find stuff that tells you that a big piece of that wreckage came through there, and nobody’s ever been there before, it helps add to that story of how these ships broke apart in that hurricane. It’s just helping us and all the other people out here that do the same thing as us, to know where to look next time.”

The 72-year-old Penninger said that he was thinking about retirement before the discovery. 

“It’s harder to go and do this every day,” Penninger said. “But when you find a couple hundred coins, it changes your mindset. So I definitely know we’ll be doing this again next year.”

Read All About It will keep you up-to-date on any developments to this ongoing story.

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