Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Space and Treasure Coast

As I have mentioned, Kennedy Space Center is in the northern part of Brevard County, Florida, where I live.

What many people outside of this area do not know is that the southern end of this county, and Indian River County to the south of us, and on down to around Fort Pierce, Florida, make up what is known as the 'Treasure Coast.'

In 1715, a Spanish fleet, known as the Plate Fleet, heavily laden with unbelievable amounts of gold, silver, and jewels, wrecked off our coasts during a hurricane. This fleet had left Cuba, and was so loaded down because it had been several years since any fleets had gone back to Spain. It was a massive disaster for the men involved, and for Spain.

Artifacts of all types, gold, silver, jewels, etc., are still being recovered to this day. In fact, in 2003, a diver found a hand carved jewel box with a gold and emerald cross necklaces and matching ring inside. This was in 12 feet of water just off the beach of the southern part of Sebastian Inlet State Park, one of our favorite beaches to go to here.

There are two museums in the area dedicated to the shipwrecks and the recovered artifacts. One is run by the State of Florida, called the McLarty Treasure Museum, which sits on the original site of the camp the Spanish set up to run recovery operations from. (I know. I shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition. Whose blog is this anyway?)

The other museum in the area is in Sebastian, Florida, on the mainland, on US1. It is the Mel Fisher Treasure Museum. Before Mel Fisher achieved fame by finding the Atocha off of the Floridas Keys, he worked for years in this area working on bringing up items from some of the wrecks in the Plate Fleet. This small museum is one of the places we always take any visitors we have. You cannot walk out of this place without your head spinning from all the gold and gems they have on display.

Earlier, I mentioned a jewelry box with items found in May, 2003. Here is a picture I took of them in the Mel Fisher museum about a week after they were found. They had already been cleaned and put on display.

Anyway, this is a very interesting part of the history of this area, but kinda gets lost in the large shadows cast by Orlando and the whole industro-Disney complex and the Space Center.

But this is the kind of stuff I love, and if you like history, these museums, especially the Mel Fisher one, are both well worth your trip from Orlando. If you're only mildly interested in such things, don't bother. (They now have a small museum in Kissimmee, FL, near all the Orlando stuff you would be down here for anyway.)

You can read more about these museums and the Plate Fleet at these sites:
McLarty Museum (Page set up by treasure hunter Mike Maguire)
1715 Plate Fleet (A link to a good synopsis of the fleet's story by John DeBry)
Mel Fisher's story. An amazing man and life.

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