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   Mel directed Bobby to mag the area near the Quicksands. After two weeks and nothing was found, Bobby began magging along the three-fathom curve that was fairly pronounced and tied the Quicksands to the Marquesa Keys. It was an obvious path to mag., and it  paid off. About four miles from Marquesas Keys Bobby got a "hit" on his magnetometer that proved to be a large copper pot, or the top of a  copper diving bell. Melian had used one when he first located the Santa Margarita in 1625. Craig Boyd jumped in the water, swam over towards the first reef, spotted two gold bars laying on top, and the rest is history. Bobby picked up another gold bar, called in to the other salvage boats, and they converged on the site.

 Santa Margarita divers recover 37 gold bars this day.

Gold bar recovered from the Atocha.

Days later Bobby was to make his biggest mistake. He got "gold fever." It was a day when he had recovered a number of gold bars that he finally put his plan into action. He, with the help of his lawyer and his wife, decided this was not in fact, the Santa Margarita. Mel had said it was up by the Quicksands, yet this site was six miles away. Mel said that if he found his own shipwreck, the deal was more a 50-50 split. Bobby made his break, filed an admiralty suit against this new shipwreck, and kept possession of the gold bars. The judge ruled against Bobby, indicating that Bobby had used Mel's money and magnetometer to locate the wreck, and that it was indeed the Santa Margarita. Bobby had to forfeit the gold bars and his entire share of the Santa Margarita. He was never allowed back on the site.
  The Santa Margarita produced two more bronze cannon, 56b gold bars, eighteen silver bars, over 10,000 silver coins, and 180 feet of gold chains, as well as a magnificent nine-inch gold plate. It was a rather fabulous recovery. but still much was left behind on the Santa Margarita. Eight bronze cannon, 76 silver bars, as well as 34,378 silver coins that were listed on her manifest remained unrecovered.  Melian did recover quite a bit, but this is all documented, and including these recoveries...a lot remains on the bottom.

This 24K gold ring with emerald stone found on the Atocha was appraised at $680,000.00.

  The "Ghost Pattern" is the theory I used when I worked the site in 1988. The ghost pattern is the second hurricane that hit the area thirty days after the hurricane that sank the Santa Margarita. The Margarita was sitting in fourteen to eighteen feet of water, exposed on a sand bank, when the second hurricane struck. It had enough force to separate the Atocha top deck from the hull and send it dancing nine miles across the surface until it hit the Quicksands. And the Atocha was in 54 feet of water. The Santa Margarita, in much shallower water, was even more affected. I am sure that the major part of the Santa Margarita went dancing across the flats to the northwestward. I did not have the boat or equipment to follow this theory.
  John Berrier anchored in this ghost pattern one night on his way from the New Orleans area to Miami, and in an hour or so he recovered 28 silver pieces-of-eight. It's not as easy as it sounds. The area is on the ridge that separates the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. This ridge is less than fifty yards from the Margarita bronze cannon recovery. The current over this bridge as the tide changes is like a freight train that is late for dinner. The bottom is sand dunes that change continuously, covering and uncovering what hard bottom that is there. You might go to the site one day and see artifacts uncovered everywhere, the next day nothing! It's a dangerous area to salvage, but the rewards are there for the dedicated salvor.

Bob "Frogfoot" Weller, author and treasure hunter.


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"Salvaging Spanish Sunken Treasure,"  by Robert "Frogfoot" Weller

For additional information see:  "Galleon Hunt,"  "Shipwrecks Near Wabasso Beach,"  "Sunken Treasure On Florida Reefs,"  "Famous Shipwrecks of the Florida Keys."  by Robert "Frogfoot" Weller


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