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Hunting for Key West’s Lost Shipwreck

Everyone dreams of finding sunken treasure, but few get the opportunity like the one afforded by Nuestra Señora de Atocha, a wreck still lost in the briny depths off Key West.

The Spanish treasure galleon was driven into shallow Florida waters by a hurricane in September 1622 and ultimately dashed on the region’s many coral reefs, and the wind and waves scattered it from there. It was lost until 1985, when Mel Fisher’s Treasures discovered the broken front portion and millions of dollars of sunken treasures.

Yet the rear sterncastle of the ship remains lost and still may contain 120,000 silver coins, 10,000 gold coins, and emeralds buried in the sands. Qualified divers who sign up for a $3,000 week-long course can join the Mel Fisher’s crew in scouring the bottom of the ocean, and if they’re extremely lucky, they may take home a sunken treasure of their own.

A Treasure Hunting FAQ

What’s involved?

You’ll need to have five open water dives and 20 general dives under your belt, but hit the baseline and you’ll have your gear provided, learn about the wreck, and take part in up to 10 hours of dives.

What am I looking for?

Search the rocky ocean floor for Spanish doubloons, gems, and the deteriorating ship itself in the form of splintered timbers.

What if I find something?

Chances are you’ll mostly run across pottery shards, musket balls, and the odd 17th-century coins. If you happen across a treasure ship lost for over 300 years, congratulations!

Can I keep what I discover?

No, though you’ll receive a treasure of equivalent value up to the full $3,000 cost of the course.

What if I don’t have the experience?

If you still want to experience treasure hunting without the diving, you can sign up to hang out on the dive boat and scout the waters from the comfort of the deck.

Where can I learn more about the Atocha?

Treasure of the Atocha is a great read on how portions of the ship were discovered, as well as the history of the doomed vessel itself.

Where to Stay  The Laureate Key West | Sunset Key Cottages | Opal Key Resort & Marina | The Capitana Key West

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