Treasure Quest Magazine
The Jupiter Wreck Project
By Steven Singer
Just offshore of
Jupiter, Florida, lie the remains of a Spanish treasure galleon. Though not positively identified, it's believed to
be those of the san Miguel el Arcangel, which was lost either late 1659 or early 1660. She may have been trying to enter the inlet during
a storm. There has been local press coverage,
but surprisingly not much national attention has been given the shipwreck. The site has already given up over 10,000 silver
coins to date, making it one of the more lucrative shipwreck sites, but more importantly,
the coins being recovered are rare and in some cases in excellent condition.
| At first Peter thought they were probably Civil War vintage cannons,
and he contacted some other local people to try and recover one of them. However, it soon became apparent that they were
much older than he first thought. As they
investigated the area further they located several more cannon and two large Spanish
anchors. About this time they began to
recover some silver coins all from the 1600s.
the first two years, before the lease was approved, they hand-fanned the area around the
cannons and anchors. No mechanical means of
excavation were allowed until a formal state lease was approved. In Spite
of this handicap they were able to recover over 1,200 silver coins, several gold coins,
and an 80-pound silver bar minted in Lima, Peru, and complete with markings and a
| By 1990 they had their state of Florida lease agreement approved and
began salvage work using propwash deflectors to move the sand that now covered the site
much deeper that when they first began. Man,
as well as nature had deposited tons of sand
south of the inlet. A contract had been given
to a dredging company to clear the inlet, and the sand they pumped out quickly settled
over the wreck. As the began in earnest to
salvage their wreck, they found between ten and twenty feet of sand covering the cannons
and anchors. It was frustrating.
The original group began to have disagreements among themselves, complicated by a number
of salvage boats that were contracted to come in and assist in the salvage. Keeping track of coins and artifacts became a
headache. The wreck site was now beginning to
receive some negative publicity due to the disputed between the partners, as well as the
various groups contracted to help salvage the site. It
was a good example of "The Treasure
Wars". Finally, the state of Florida
stepped in to help resolve the problems by placing a more restrictive lease agreement on
the salvors. Excavations resumed under a
change in management.
| This year I had been working with my own salvage boat on the 1715
"Cabin Wreck" off Sebastian, Florida. Weather
has not been in our favor up there, water was dirty and high waves kept us out of the
water more days than we worked. A fiend of
mine, Allan Gardner, had been diving with us on the "Cabin" site, but he soon
left us to work the Jupiter wreck site with his 55-foot salvage boat Ella Warley III. With weather pretty bad on the "Cabin"
site I had an opportunity to dive with Allan the first couple of days he was on the
Jupiter site. The need for a fairly large
salvage boat soon became apparent with twenty feet of sand covering the wreckage.
It took two hours to get the initial hole dug to hard
bottom, with the sand sliding in as fast as it was dusted away. But once the bottom was reached, Allan was able to
maneuver his salvage boat a few feet at a time, keeping the sand from filling the hole, and uncovering more of the
bottom. When he began, his blowers were only a few feet above the sandy bottom, making it
more difficult to excavate, and because the water was fairly shallow there was no place
for the sand to go except back in the hole. A
smaller salvage boat could work in the shallow water, but wouldn't have the motor power to
move such tremendous quantities of sand, and normally a larger boat would be hitting
bottom in the shallow water. Because the Ella
Warley III is a shallow draft boat with two powerful engines, it is ideal for these
that first day was Ok, though you has to let the silt settle before diving to the bottom
of the hole. That didn't keep the divers out
of the water, and immediately after the engines were shut down they all headed for the
bottom, including myself. Everyone wanted to
be the first to find a coin, with that honor going to Dave Foster. After a few minutes though, visibility got much
better and we had a chance to see the 25-foot crater that the Ella Warley had dusted clear to the bottom. It was late, and we shut down for the day. It was decided to keep the salvage boat anchored
over the site during the night, and expectations were high for the next day.
weather was good the following day, and with an incoming tide the visibility was great
that morning. Ten coins and a pewter screw
cap were recovered, as well as a few ballast stones.
I noticed these ballast stones were a bit different than the ones we are use to
finding on the 1715 fleet sites. Instead of being round river rock, these were more irregular,
not smooth at all, possibly form a quarry. Pete
Leo, the remaining original partner, joined us that afternoon, swimming out from the
beach. It was then that we noticed the sand
piling up behind the salvage boat, and it was decided to move the boat closer to shore and
work seaward. After moving the boat the day
was about finished. Marx called saying they
had recovered the "first" coin from
the Juno wreck. I headed home, wishing Allan
and the crew "good luck".
| I had an opportunity to visit the site about a week later. By now over 100 coins had been recovered. Before leaving we observed another larger salvage
boat, the Ocean Star, had arrived to work the site. It
would be used to help locate the ballast pile further seaward.
But so far the site has proved rewarding for the salvors. To date over 10,000 silver coins and almost 100
gold coins have been recovered. Two gold
bars, as well as a few "bits" of gold, a silver bar weighing 80 pounds, a large
copper cooking pot complete with dolphin handles, a pewter shaker box, two arquebuses
(muskets), a silver fork, silver spoon, musket balls, cannon balls, and two cannon have
been raised. Six more cannons remain on the
site. The majority of the silver coins are
from the Potosi mint and dated 1658. Twelve
of the gold coins are two escudos from the Bogota mint.
Also some rare transitional coins have been recovered, including a "Star of
Lima" eight-reales and an eight-reales from the Cartagena mint.
Reprints of "The Best Of Treasure
Quest Magazine" are used with permission from a series of stories in Treasure Quest
by Bob "Frogfoot" Weller, Ernie "Seascribe" Richards and other
great modern day treasure hunters.
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