Exciting news for all of you history buffs and treasure hunters – well, less of good news for the latter but still exciting regardless – as the 300-year-old Spanish ship Capitana was found off the Floridian southern coast on June 17th.
The ship was discovered holding 40 feet of golden chains, 110 silver coins and 52 gold coins; the amount may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but the historical value is something else entirely! The reason we’re just hearing about it now is due to the original discoverer, Eric Schmitt, wanting to have the official information release coincide with the 300-years-old anniversary of the original sink date of the fleet.
The ship was originally part of Spain’s Tierra Firme and New Spain Fleets, a group of 11 ships designed to carry precious resources like gold and silver from the Spanish colonies in ‘the new world’ back to their homeland in Europe. According to Jennifer McKinnon, an Eastern Carolina University maritime archaeologist, “The Tierra Firme fleet serviced South and Central America… [The fleet] was vital to the flow of materials back to Spain as well as provisioning the New World with Old World goods.”
The fleet of ships originally sank due to a hurricane from July 30-31 in 1715 while they were transporting goods back to Spain and have been exclusively researched and studied by 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels LLC along with Schmitt et al. Basically, if you’re looking to go on your own Floridian diving expedition, these wrecks are off limits!
According to Schmitt, they’ve generally only managed to discover holes and beer cans, trash that winds up where it doesn’t belong on the ocean floor; so when they found an entire treasure cache things got pretty exciting! One of the coins alone, called a Tricentennial Royal, is worth over half a million dollars by itself. From Brent Brisben, co-founder of 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels:
“[The current find] is probably the biggest in terms of volume and rarity,” and goes on to talk about old coins – how they were generally more concerned with the weight than the look. “[But] they made a certain number of coins perfect, called the Royals, which they would present to the king.”
Nothing but the finest for royalty!
You may think that Schmitt and Brisben are set for a while now, but that may not be the case at all. Due to the nature of the discovery (historical), they could be losing out on quite a bit of profit; the state of Florida claims 20% of whatever the company finds and can requisition pieces for museums if the United States district court of the southern district of Florida deems anything they find a historical artifact worth saving. This is done through an annual examination of everything the team discovers in the wrecks, anything the representative feels should be preserved is placed to the side and then discussed in court. Even so, it’s looking like a pretty nice payday for these explorers!