Mel Fisher is considered among the most famous treasure hunters in American history. He gets most of his notoriety from a single find: the absolutely massive shipwreck of the Spanish galleon, Nuestra Señora de Atocha. But, like all good stories, his should be told from the beginning.
In 1622, the Atocha was a famous Spanish fleet ship with many ports of call. Before its fateful voyage, it had just finished visiting several ports from Columbia to Cuba stocking up on goods (but mostly priceless treasure – including vast amounts of gold and silver) before returning home to Caragena, Spain. Unfortunately, it was making its cargo run during the worst possible time for seafaring: hurricane season.
The Atocha delayed its voyage back to Spain for as long as it could. But eventually, it simply could not wait anymore. It joined up with fleet and set sail – hoping for the best. Unfortunately, a hurricane struck and forced the Atocha among the coral reefs of the Dry Tortugas near the Florida coast. The coral smashed open the hull and sank the ship almost immediately. Only five crewmembers survived among the thrashing, hurricane induced waves. Worse yet, the hurricane scattered the cargo and wreckage.
The loss of the Atocha was a devastating one that had a significant impact on the Spanish economy at the time, the reason being the incredible amount of treasure the Atocha was carrying and the Spanish had been expecting. Just how big was this treasure? Find out in our next blog post.