It started about two years ago when Ed’s young niece and nephew, Capri and Cole, came to visit. On our trawler, Adrift, they found the map “Shipwrecks of Florida and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.” They stared asking about shipwrecks and treasure and pirates. Ed and I had to study up.
“…The 1715 Treasure Fleet was returning from the New World to Spain. At two in the morning on Wednesday, July 31, 1715, seven days after departing from Havana Cuba, all eleven ships were lost in a hurricane along the east coast of Florida. Today, we refer to this area as the Treasure Coast.“
Every time Ed and I saw Cole and Capri thereafter, they asked again about the pirates, the gold, the ships at the bottom of the sea. So this time when the family came for Thanksgiving I told Ed it was time we lead a treasure hunt and then visit Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum in Sebastian. We could teach the kids about the famous Treasure Fleet of 1715 featured in the 1965 edition of National Geographic where Kip Wagner and Mel Fisher’s Sebastian, Vero, and Ft. Pierce finds created “treasure fever” all over the world. I ordered an inexpensive treasure chest, false pieces of eight, and colorful costume gems. I visited thrift stores for beads. I thought about how the pieces of silver and gold were stamped in Peru and Mexico and that the Spanish had colonized these areas only steal the riches back to the crown…
History: the most famous shipwreck in the world happened here. The 1715 Treasure Fleet and over 1500 souls perished in and off the reefs from Sebastian to the St Lucie Inlet area. To this day, lie millions of dollars of gold, silver, and bullion for those who can find it.”
Clue #1 Find Where the Sailors took Refuge
Cule #2 Find the Anastasia Rock. Look for the Blow Hole. Turn around and walk fifteen paces. Look for the pirate flag. Start digging for the Pieces of Eight.
Ed’s second job was to go ahead of me and his family and bury the treasure chest at the House of Refuge. Ed did a heck of a job. Such a great job that once the kids found “X-marks the spot,” they dug, and dug, but could not find the treasure!
I was looking at Ed. I was glancing at Ben (Ed’s nephew) and Kelly (Ben’s wife). I couldn’t believe it!
“Ed!!!” I bellowed!
Although it was November, and Thanksgiving time, it was hot and humid. A fog hung over Hutchinson Island as we drove over the Indian River from Sewall’s Point.
Now we all were getting nervous and Ed and Ben started digging for the treasure box. The kids stood by spellbound. It wasn’t as if they hadn’t given it a good shot.
-Ed and Ben taken over…-Cole tries to help.-Capri holds a map up for Ed to get a clue..“Well the kids moved the pirate flag and the metal bar I put over where I marked the booty.” Ed whispered, so the kids would not hear. “Just find it! I replied. “Keep the dream alive!”
Ben and Ed dug. And they dug. And they dug. This went on for at least fifteen minuets or longer. The hole was getting deep and I knew this is a “no-no” due to nesting sea turtles. I kept making Ben and Ed fill the hole back in. I heard a voice and realized the Keeper of the House of Refuge, Michael Philips, had left his historic post to come outside and see what we were doing. I explained, apologizing. He laughed and was very kind.
Then it dawned on me that we may never find the treasure box. That it would sit and rot here at the historic house of refuge under the sands of time forever. The irony was unbelievable.
Sweaty and tired, Ed looked at me: “You’re going to kill me, aren’t you?”
I laughed and hugged him. “No, it’s actually very funny.”
Right at this moment Ben struck the treasure box. “Thump.” Cole and Capri screamed with joy and resumed their digging. Gold and silver coins were strewn across the sand as the kids fought to hold the bullion. Success! Certainly a dream kept alive and that is all that matters.
Field Trip post treasure hunt:
-Mel Fishers Treasure Museum, Sebastian, Florida about an hour drive north of Stuart. You can take AIA where all the ships lie off shore! -The museum offer kids a fill in the blank treasure hunt questionnaire and once completed the kids get to choose a small gift from the gift shop. Carpi chose tiny binoculars and Cole chose a pirate ring. They also saw real pieces of eight and how expensive and beautiful the pieces were. This facilitated a lot of historical and present day conversation. -Capri and Cols stand before the 1876 House of Refuge, Hutchinson Island, Martin County. This setting was wonderful for our treasure hunt. Thank you!
-A scholarly article by Rick Crary about the 1715 Treasure Fleet.