Mel Fisher Family Treasures Find

KEY WEST - Gold chains, silver coins and bars of solid gold glittered in the tropical sun Wednesday as the "family of famed treasure hunter Mel Fisher showed off another significant find from a sunken Spanish galleon.

But the family said that more importantly the latest salvage, estimated to be worth more than $500,000 by itself, could lead to millions more in booty from the scattered remains of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha.

Kim Fisher, son of the late treasure salvor Mel Fisher, said his dive teams located the sterncastle - the galleon's rear structure where aristocracy, the clergy and their belongings traveled - about 12 miles northwest of the original find 15 years ago.

Fisher said his crew would continue their 12-hour-a-day searches to find the remainder of the sterncastle's hidden treasures, which could be as close as a few feet away from this latest find.

"It's mind-boggling when you think about the quantity of gold and silver in this ship," Fisher said.

"We've been following this trail for several years. Now, all the hard work and empty holes are starting to reap rewards," he said. "We're going to diligently go out there and keep digging holes and find the rest of it. We're going to find it this week."

The ship, laden with millions in gold and silver bullion and bound for Spain from Havana, went down in a hurricane about 30 miles west of Key West in 1622.

The latest find was made Sunday. Fisher said his crews uncovered three solid gold bars, 120 silver coins, several gold chains, a gold medallion of possible Aztec origin and assorted other pieces of Indian jewelry believed to have come from South America.

Fisher said the find could be the key to locating millions in gold and jewels the salvors believe is still out there.

"We think this is probably going to be bigger than the initial mother load," family spokeswoman Morgan Perkins said Wednesday after the artifacts were exhibited and unloaded from a salvage vessel.

"This is going to be one-of-a-kind artifacts: You'll find gold chains that no one else has seen. A shipwreck is like a window into the past because it's perfectly preserved and not many of those artifacts exist today."

Quoted from the Associated Press - July 20, 2000