FORT PIERCE - It was a cloudy, dull day at Riverside Marina, but the glimmer of
gold coins and exotic jewels kept John Brandon's boat Endeavor shining as a
summer storm approached. Brandon, a large gold medallion hanging from his neck,
showed off his latest acquisition from undersea treasure hunting $100,000 worth
of coins and jewelry he and his crew found off the coast of Fort Pierce.
But it's more than a lucky catch borne of a wishful hobby for Brandon and
his men. It's the result of a hard day's work.
"It's the only thing I've ever done, to go out and find treasure,"
Brandon said. Brandon, a 35-year veteran of historical shipwreck salvage missions,
has had plenty of luck. He's found a $43,000 gold bar, $6,000 gold coins, gold
cufflinks and a 14.5 carat emerald ring in his searches.
Fellow divers Ryan Iacona of Port St. Lucie and Tim McGuire of Fort Pierce
helped Brandon find the $100,000 treasure August 4. They came upon what is known
as the "Douglass Beach Wreck" the remains of a 1715 Spanish galleon
that sank near Frederick Douglass Memorial Beach. Among the loot they found were
300-year-old gold and silver coins and a 22-Karat gold ring worth almost $15,000.
On August 6, the findings were brought to the Mel Fisher Center in Sebastian,
where it will go through various inspections and archaeological research.
The historical value of the findings will be assessed at the Fisher Center.
"In about a year, Florida will take 20 percent, then we get 80 percent,
" Brandon said.