I recently had a conversation with a fellow from Key West about scuba diving. He said that he had moved to the Keys in hopes of diving for the treasure of early Spanish galleons. He had heard of the hundreds of millions of dollars in gold coins and other artifacts that the famous salver, Mel Fisher, had discovered. He was hoping to get lucky too - with less chance of that than of winning the lottery. I said that I too had similar thoughts back in the day, and became scuba certified. The fellow I was speaking with dreamed of his treasure, but did little to follow up on it. I was a bit more serious in that I took a number of advanced certification courses, read numerous books on the subject of sunken treasure, and did hundreds of dives.
In an effort to improve my skills I was certified in underwater photography (which I pursued enthusiastically for several years), rescue diving, advanced open water diving, deep diving, night diving, equipment specialist, nitrox, wreck diving, diver first aid, and I believe there might have been one or two more specialties. I was into it!
Then, to advance my knowledge, I heard about a man who taught a course in marine archeology, the study of ancient shipwrecks. This was Captain Peter Throckmorton, who taught a graduate level course at Nova Southeastern University. In his field he was called “The Father of Marine Archaeology.” He was an early pioneer, having excavated important wrecks all over the world. He was a historian and simply brilliant as a source of information about all periods in shipwreck history.
I called Peter to find out more about his course, and he invited me to register for his next one, which was going to start soon. I did just that, and took his twelve week course, which was given in a classroom at the Coast Guard station and John Lloyd State Park in Fort Lauderdale. It was a great course for me. I loved stories of ancient ships and the history surrounding them. I studied, early Greek and Turkish maritime activity, and about trade in the ancient eastern Mediterranean. Peter was a freak for Lord Nelson, so I learned more about that than I ever thought possible, but I found it interesting and followed that thread too.
Peter said he had been hired on as the archaeologist for a marine expedition project going on in the Bahamas. There was an opportunity for students in his class to volunteer for a week on the expedition if they had skills the project could use. My greatest contribution could be my skill as a diver. When I showed Peter my credentials, he was particularly interested in the fact that I could do underwater photography. He thought that might have some merit for the project and I was hired.
I spent a week on the expedition ship anchored off Riding Rocks in the Bahamas, about twenty miles south of Cat Cay. We didn't find the wreck the expedition was looking for. They had been out there for about three months before I showed up, and were there for three months after I left, and still didn't find what they were looking for. They blew through $3 million of investors' money and came back with nothing.
But I came back with treasure greater than anything I could have imagined. I was already a skilled and enthusiastic diver, but this event encouraged me further. I have been diving for about forty years and have found myself in such places as Mexico (many times), the Bahamas (also many times), Grand Cayman (a couple of times), all over the Caribbean, Hawaii, Turkey, and Thailand.
My treasure is derived from the great memories I have from a lifetime of diving experiences. I have an album of great photos, and a head full of great memories as an enthusiastic diver, that has taken me to so many exotic places and taught me so much about those places and the awesome creatures swimming round in their waters. It makes me a wealthy man.