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Team of treasure hunters strikes gold once again off coast of Indian River County
Wednesday, 16 February 2011 07:45
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — A team of treasure hunters struck gold once again Sunday off the coast of Indian River County.

A boat crew working with Queen’s Jewels of Jupiter Island and Sebastian found 22 gold Spanish coins and a small cannon dating back some 300 years that had sunk into the sand in low-tide water between Wabasso and Vero Beach. The coins could be worth more than $176,000, said Brent Brisben, co-founder of Queen’s Jewels.

“It’s called the Treasure Coast for a reason,” Brisben said. “It was a sight to see these guys so excited. It’s one of the best days you can have.”

Queen’s Jewels has teamed with Capt. Greg Bounds of Fellsmere to explore the wreckage area of an 18th century Spanish fleet. Sunday, the crew used a magnetometer in the low-tide area of a beach to determine a large metal object was buried there, Brisben said. They used water pressure to burrow into the sand to find the coins and a swivel gun, which is a small cannon often mounted at the rear of the boats, Brisben said.

Brisben’s company acquired the salvage rights to the sunken ships from the heirs of world-famous treasure hunter Mel Fisher. They have been named federal custodians to the 300-mile wreckage area, he said.

Bounds, whose boat “Gold Hound” made another discovery last month off the coast of Indian River Shores, is one of about 15 subcontractors who have worked with Fisher’s Treasure Museum in Sebastian.

The crew used rope to help them pull the 300-pound swivel gun to their boat, Brisben said. After retrieving the swivel gun Sunday, Bounds’ crew took it to the museum, where it is being held in a water tank for preservation. The swivel gun might be donated to the state, Brisben said.

“It’s one of only a handful of cannons recovered in the last 50 years,” Brisben said.

In 1715 an 11-ship fleet set sail from Cuba laden with gold bars, coins, diamonds, emeralds and pearls bound for King Philip V of Spain. The bounty included the dowry for Philip’s new bride, Elisabeth, who refused to consummate their marriage until she received it.

The ships sank in a hurricane off the Treasure Coast, taking with it hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gold. If Brisben and his associates find more, it won’t appear worse for the wear from being submerged for three centuries.

“Gold shines forever,” Bounds said. “It can sit on the bottom of the ocean without any effect.”

The allure of gold also brought out some amateur treasure hunters to the same beach Bounds’ crew were working. Retiree Bob Cheney was scanning the beach with a handheld metal detector early Monday afternoon. His search had only yielded a rusty quarter from 1986.

“Two bits,” Cheney said.

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