Subject: $4.5m USD of Spanish Gold Coins found in Florida
From: Alex Kemp
Date: Thursday, 20 August 2015 17:10:47 +0100
To: Oliver Kemp, Micaela Kemp, Liisa Kemp, Davin Kemp

The BBC says “Treasure hunting is a popular activity in the waters around Florida” and, after reading this story, you may well decide to have a little go yourself:-

(l to r) Dan Beckingham, Jonah Martinez, William Bartlett and Brent Brisben (credit: 1715 Fleet - Queens Jewels, LLC)

Brent Brisben is CEO of 1715 Treasure Fleet - Queen Jewels, LLC. On Tuesday 18 August he announced via CBS' This Morning that he & his team had found 350 gold coins worth $4.5 million USD (£2.9 million GBP), including 9 rare “royal eight escudos” coins. The Royals are worth $300,000 (£190,000 GBP) each (only 20 had been found before the latest discovery). These coins were rescued from water just 6 feet (2m) deep!

In the 18th Century, Phillip V of Spain was dependent on treasure from the New World to allow him to wage war in Europe.

At sunrise on July 24, 1715, a convoy consisting of twelve ships set sail from Havana Harbour for the long voyage back to Spain. It was composed of the five ships of the New Spain Flota (fleet), commanded by Captain-General Don Juan Esteban de Ubilla; six ships of the Squadron of Tierra Firme, commanded by Captain-General Don Antonio de Echeverz y Zubiza; and a French ship, the Grifon, under the command of Captain Antonio Daire. The ships carried both treasure, private goods & tobacco. The total of the registered treasure carried on four ships of Ubilla’s  flota – excluding the silverware, jewellery, and a small number of gold coins – was 6,388,020 pesos.

After the convoy left Havana it made its way up the Bahama Channel. During the night of July 30 it was struck by a fierce hurricane that wrecked all the ships upon the coast of Florida, with the single exception of the Grifon which miraculously escaped. Over a thousand people lost their lives, including Ubilla and his principle officers. About 1,500 persons reached shore by swimming or floating on pieces of wreckage, but some of them perished from exposure, thirst, and hunger before aid could reach them from Havana and St. Augustine.

The Spanish worked from December to July to recover the valuables from the wrecks. 1715 Treasure Fleet reckon that 2,200,000 pesos of registered treasure remain which, at $250 / coin, is $550 million (£350 million GBP). So far the company has found about $6.5 million (£4.1 million GBP).

Did you notice the words “registered treasure” in those paragraphs? The curious feature is that a vast amount of smuggling was occurring within those Treasure Ships. Almost no gold coins were registered aboard the ships yet, in addition to recent discoveries, around the beginning of the 19th century a surveyor reported discovering several hundred gold and silver coins on the beach near the Ft. Pierce inlet. In addition to that have been unregistered gold bars. This is all contraband!

Brisben's company currently owns the exclusive salvage rights to the remains of the 1715 shipwrecks and serves as custodian for the U.S District Court for the Southern District of Florida (how did he manage to do that???). Under US state law, Florida will keep 20% of value of the find.

Brisben is willing to allow others to sub-contract (“I try to give people the opportunity to live the dream”). In addition, he only holds rights to treasure found on the seabed. His company work very close to the shore, as wave action has pushed the treasure from the reefs toward the beach & even up into the dunes. If you find the treasure on shore, then it is “finders keepers”.

What was that? You fancy a holiday in Florida? Possibly in Ft. Pierce? Hmm, told you so.

Alex Kemp