Risks are rewarding, treasure hunting ‘is no easy task’

Treasure hunting has been a lucrative hobby in Florida this year. First it was the Schmitt family, who announced that they had discovered sunken treasure that was worth a million dollars. Not even one month later, Brisben announced a discovery of his own: one worth a whopping $4.5 million.

Brent along with his crew recovered what eventually turned out to be 350 gold coins off the Vero Beach coast on July 30 and 31, 2015. Nine of these coins were Royals.

The rare coins were called Royals because they were specifically made for Phillip V, King of Spain, in the early 18th century. Each coin is valued at an incredible $300,000 each.

The excitement of the discovery was also made even more special by its timing.

July 30, 2015 was the official 300 year anniversary of the 1715 Fleet shipwreck, where eleven ships departed from Havana to make their way to Spain and deliver their cargo of the queen’s jewels and gold.

The fleet was led by Capitan-General Don Juan Esteban de Ubilla and the flagship Capitana and left on July 24, 1715. But when the ships were overtook by a hurricane on July 31, 1715, all of the incredible treasure stored aboard those ships were lost to the sea. Not only that, but over a thousand people manning the boats died in the storm.

All things considered, it’s remarkable that Brisben actually discovered the treasure a solid three centuries after it was lost. Brisben said the discovery has been “magical”.

He sat down with Charlie Rose on the show “CBS This Morning” to talk about the experience and his history with searching for buried treasure. 

Brisben said it was amazing that they discovered the treasure on the anniversary of the day it was lost. He and his crew discovered what would amount to over 230 gold coins that day. It was the same day that the hurricane had struck in the evening and sentenced 11 ships to the bottom of the sea.

Some may call it fate, others may call it luck. But to Brisben, this is just a result of what he does. But that doesn’t make it any less exciting. 

William Bartlett, who was the one to recover the precious coins from the ocean floor, said this is what treasure hunters seeking the bounty of the 1715 fleet work for. When treasure-hunting season comes around, they ‘eat, sleep, and breathe’ hunting treasure.

Bartlett said that the find was like winning a gold medal at the Olympics, and related the fact that when they’re not actually out treasure hunting, they’re hanging out with other hunters and talking about it. The season for treasure hunting runs about May to September, and this year has been fairly rewarding for hunters, with the Schmitts discovering one million off Fort Pierce and the Florida divers and Brisben coming up with gold coins that all together totaled up to a whopping $4.5 million. 

Eric Schmitt, 27, was the one who found and recovered the treasure with his family. The Schmitts discovered 51 gold coins as well as over 40 feet of ornate gold chain this June. They also subcontract for Brisben, who owns the company 1715 Fleet – Queens Jewels LLC, which has purchased the exclusive salvage rights for the wreck of the 1715 Fleet. That essentially means that it is not legal for any boats to enter that area without having first a permit from the organization. 

This is probably a good choice, as the 1715 Fleet’s wreckage produces a large amount of artifacts on a regular basis. However, the gold discovered will also belong partially to Florida’s United States District Court.

Florida state will hold on to 20 percent for display it in a state museum, with the remainder to be split up between Brent Brisben and the divers and crew who helped him find it. Eighty percent of the treasure adds up to roughly $3.6 million for the parties involved to split up. Not a bad haul.

Brisben’s crew was to follow up the 230 gold coins with 75 more the very next day.

“It’s crazy, honestly,” Brisben said. He also noted that events happen strangely and that there were “energies” involved with the original storm and ensuing tragedy. 

Brisben noted that if he had been asked 5 or 6 years ago, when he first started, of what he would eventually pull from the depths of the ocean that he never would have believed it. 
Brent says that the anniversary year has been “magical”, and that the tragedy has gone on to tell its story “every year”. A full three centuries later, the 1715 Fleet’s legacy lives on.