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It wasn't until in 1984 (even after the Santa Margarita was located and salvaged in 1980) when two more bronze cannon and an anchor were located to the northwest of the primary area, that everyone took a "second look" at the scatter pattern. It was obvious when these latest finds were plotted, that the hurricane had carried the various parts of the Atocha in a "curved" path, probably because it was caught on the backside of the hurricane. A straight path from the cannons and artifacts, Bank of Spain, had been plotted in previous years and magnetometer runs made along this path. Nothing was found. Now, when a curved path was plotted, it lead into Hawk Channel, and the right depth...54 feet.


Spanish treasure fleets returning to Spain.

  The Saba Rock, a 130-foot salvage vessel under the command of Don Durant, became a sub-contractor to Mel Fisher and begun a plodding, step-by-step excavation along this new path. They found nothing of interest until May 27, 1985, when five pieces of gold and emerald jewelry, twelve gold bars, and some gold chain were recovered. It created a lot of excitement, and suddenly everyone realized that this was the right track. In the meantime Kane Fisher had moved his salvage vessel Dauntless on the path, set a string of buoys several miles long, and began leap-frogging down the path making jumps of 100 yards, blowing a hole, sending divers down to have a look, then making another move. He also found nothing of interest.
 
Mel Fisher with a magnotometer.
  The Saba Rock had engine trouble and was out of the race. Kane reached the end of his string of buoys, told his father, "I'm going to keep going," and got the blessing from Mel. He set up more buoys, extending the search another mile and kept going. On July 19, 1985, he got his first break, a large section of olive jar and barrel hoop with four silver coins attached. They rested for the night, not knowing they were within fifty yards of the motherlode. It was the next day when Mel Fisher could finally say "Today's the day!!" The ballast pile had a reef of silver bars twenty feet long, three feet wide, and three feet high, almost 980 bars, ranging in weight from 75 to ninety pounds. There were intact redwood boxes of coins, and artifacts everywhere. Bill Moore recovered over seventy gold bars in a single hole on the western side of the ballast pile. It was a dream come true.
  The Santa Margarita was another story. By the beginning of 1980 Mel's competition began to close in on his area. They were in the hunt for the Santa Margarita, an equally loaded treasure galleon that had to be close by. The gunnery captain on board the Santa Margarita described the Atocha as "rising up, striking a reef, and sinking shortly thereafter." The Santa Margarita then parted her anchor lines and struck the sand banks in eighteen feet of water, where she came apart. There were 68 survivors. Francisco Melian, a Spanish salvager, located the Santa Margarita in 1625 and recovered 392 silver bars, 68,622 silver coins, and eight of the eighteen bronze cannon that were aboard the Margarita.


Spanish document with location of the Atocha.


This was the the pride of the Spanish Treasure Fleet-Atocha.

  By the salvage reports the Margarita had to be close to the Atocha. Mel had periodically sent salvage boats to search the area west of the Quicksands, thinking that's where the ship had to have sunk. It wasn't there. They did manage to find the Henrietta Marie (of 1700), but that's another story. As the competition began running magnetometer surveys closer to the Marquesas Keys, and Mel was certainly in danger of losing this galleon if he didn't locate it first, he held a "think tank" meeting where everyone threw out his ideas where the Santa Margarita might be. Bobby Jordan was at that meeting, and he offered to take his salvage vessel Castillion and look for it. Mel offered him 2% if he found it on Mel's money, or 5% if Bobby used his money. Bobby opted for the 2%, one of his first big mistakes.

 

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References

"Salvaging Spanish Sunken Treasure,"  by Robert "Frogfoot" Weller

For additional information see:  "Galleon Hunt,"  "Shipwrecks Near Wabasso Beach,"  "Sunken Treasure On Florida Reefs,"  "Famous Shipwrecks of the Florida Keys."  by Robert "Frogfoot" Weller

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