In 1715, 12 Spanish ships left the New World of Cuba to return home to Spain laden with treasure. On July 30, seven days after they departed, a hurricane sunk 11 ships and claimed 1,000 souls. Exactly 300 years later on July 30, 2015, treasure hunters from 1715 Fleet – Queens Jewels, LLC recovered 350 gold coins from the wreck valued at $4.5 million. Of the 350 coins discovered, nine were Royals – extremely rare presentation coins stamped on the king of Spain’s royal order.
The shipwreck was initially identified by treasure hunter Kip Wagner during the 1960s. He recovered enough artifacts from the 1715 fleet to write a book (Pieces of Eight: Recovering the Riches of a Lost Spanish Treasure Fleet) and open an exhibit featured in the January 1965 issue of National Geographic. But, the size of the fleet and the hundreds of years spent in the roiling ocean meant that the entirety of the treasure was spread out over miles and miles of Florida’s Treasure Coast – so named because of the 1715 shipwreck discovered offshore.
In fact, the Queens Jewels team made their discovery in only 6 feet of water. And they may find a lot more – they own the exclusive salvage rights to the remains of the 1715 shipwrecks and serve as custodian for the U.S District Court for the Southern District of Florida, meaning they are the only ones who can legally reclaim artifacts from the 1715 fleet.