Mel Fisher treasure museum

"TODAY'S THE DAY!" was Mel Fisher's moto.

20th July 1985 was "the day" at last when Mel Fisher, one of the world's greatest treasure hunter, found the priceless treasure cargo of the fabled lost Spanish galleon Atocha.

It was the dream that had consumed Mel Fisher's life for more than 16 years and he had finally found the "rainbow's end" - stacks of silver bars, chests of silver coins, gold, jewels, and thousands of other unique artifacts from the Nuestra Senora de Atocha. His dreams of treasure began in childhood whilst reading Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, and about pirates of the "Spanish Main". He attended Purdue University, where he studied engineering but with the outbreak of World War II, he went into the U.S.Army. After the war he restlessly moved to Chicago then Denver and to Florida. Mel continued to pursue his interest in diving despited living in California. He met Dolores Horton in 1953 and they spent their honeymoon diving on shipwrecks in Florida and the Florida Keys. Mel finally opened "Mel's Aqua Shop" in Redondo Beach, California - this was the first "dive shop" in the world.

In 1962, whilst returning from the Caribbean through Florida, Mel met a treasure hunter named Kip Wagner, who had been attempting to salvage remains of the ten known shipwrecks of the 1715 Spanish Plate Fleet lost in a hurricane off Florida's East Coast. Wagner was ill-equipped, with just a part-time crew, he invited Mel to join him. After moving to Florida Mel and his team agreed to work for free for one year searching for the big bonanza. Finally after 360 days of "no finds", the team tested MEl's invention the "mailbox". Using the propellers to create a wash of clear water downwards to the divers, it dug a hole in the sand to reveal 1,033 gold coins.

Shortly afterwards, Mel switched his search to the tropical waters of the Florida Keys, for the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha, a royal guard galleon with 40 tons of gold and silver aboard, which sank in the hurricane of 1622. He purchased an old ship in 1967 from Europe and it was brought across the Atlantic to be converted in to a full size reproduction of a Spanish galleon as a floating museum and headquarters for Mel's team. This floating museum then sank in the early eighties and in 1987 bought a former Key West Naval Station building to permanently house the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society Museum, with research center, education and conservation laboratories.

Finally the day came in July 1985 and the Atocha's mother lode was located with thousands of artifacts, silver coins, gold coins, Spanish wares, jewellery set with precious stones, gold chains, and even seeds were recovered.