-- Treasure hunters arrived on the Treasure Coast on Monday in
search of what they hope might be a ship from a gold-filled
fleet that gave the area its name.
The four-person crew of a lift boat named the Polly-L expects to
reach Tiger Shores Beach, located just north of Stuart Public
Beach, this morning and begin looking for historical artifacts
associated with a shipwreck possibly from the 1715 Spanish
The search begins four years after officials
with the Amelia Island-based Amelia Research and Recovery team
first surveyed the shallow waters off Hutchinson Island for a
stack of cannons that a local surfer discovered almost 30 years
"I'm excited and ready to go," said Dave Jordan, a former Palm
City resident and surfer who kept his discovery a secret for 25
years until his wife triggered the memory. "I want to see what's
So does Doug Pope, the president of Amelia Research and
Recovery, who on Monday captained the four-story-high boat down
the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Pierce.
Pope and Jordan worked with the state to secure necessary
permits to "dig and identify" the 42 targets they found during a
2005 survey about 200 yards from the beach.
Starting as early as today, professional divers will use metal
detectors to rule out which of the targets are "modern junk" --
bridge parts or other metal debris -- picked up in the initial
survey, Pope said.
Then they'll use a 6-inch vacuum dredge to determine what the
remaining targets are. If they uncover an artifact of potential
historical significance, the treasure hunters must first receive
a permit to "salvage" the material.
"When the treasure gods start smiling, then we'll say we found
something," Pope said. "They don't smile that often."
If Jordan's memory turns out to be accurate, Martin County
historians say the shipwreck could be part of an 11-vessel
Spanish fleet that wrecked in a hurricane in 1715.
So far, the ship from that fleet discovered farthest south was
the Urca de Lima, found north of Fort Pierce's Pepper Beach
Park, which now contains a state underwater archeological
preserve around the wreck. Other ships from that fleet have been
discovered in Indian River County.
While it is unlikely any gold will be uncovered in the search,
officials with the Historical Society of Martin County are
hoping historical treasures will be discovered and eventually
displayed in the new Elliott Museum planned just yards from the
possible shipwreck site.
Jordan, who has family in Martin County and is in the process of
moving from North Carolina to Gainesville, said he will likely
stay on the Polly-L for a few days as the work begins. The
project is expected to take about a month.
"It's important for me to find the cannons, but it's not about
me," he said. "I'm excited Martin County is getting a chance.
There's tons of history here. It's unbelievable."
TREASURE HUNT TIMELINE
October 1978: Dave Jordan, former Palm City resident and
surfer, rides a wave off Tiger Shores Beach and, underwater,
sees cannons stacked in the sand. He keeps the memory to himself
September 2003: After a discussion with his wife prompted
his memory, Jordan works with treasure hunters with the Amelia
Island-based Amelia Research and Recovery to begin searching for
the cannons. Archeologists believe they could be from the 1715
Spanish treasure fleet that sank nearby.
May 2005: Treasure hunters return to continue surveying
the area with the hopes of securing a state permit to search for
February 2007: With the proper permits in hand, officials
will bring the four-story-high lift boat named the Polly-L to
begin digging for the cannons and other historically significant
pieces. They said it is unlikely they will find any treasure.