Museum highlights Florida's most famous treasure hunter

Special to the Orlando Sentinel
Mel Fisher Museum in Key West displays ships' booty

For Mel Fisher it took 15 years of relentless dedication, millions of dollars and his belief that Spanish galleons were hidden underwater along the coast of Florida. Most of the search was tedious vacuuming of sand, but it finally paid off when he discovered the wreckage of the Spanish galleon Atocha, which went down in 1622 during a hurricane.

The treasure hunter's dream came true as he began unearthing silver bars, gold chains and trinkets. The worldwide publicity caught the attention of federal and state authorities, who challenged his right to keep the treasure. After extended legal battles with them over salvage rights, Fisher emerged victorious.

Driven by the belief that other ships had scraped the ocean floor with their booty, his salvage crews discovered the wreckage of the Santa Margarita, a sister ship to the Atocha, which has yielded an incredible treasure-trove of 40,000 tons of gold and silver valued at $450 million.

At the popular Mel Fisher Museum in Key West, the story unfolds through exhibits displaying valuable artifacts, gold chalices and rings, and videos of the underwater dredging that continues today. Documentation of this incredible adventure story of Fisher, who has since passed away, is now carried on by his family and is one of the greatest underwater archaeological discoveries of all time.

If you go:

Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

200 Greene St., Key West

305-294-2633

melfisher.org

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401 S.W. Second Street, Fort Lauderdale

954-467-6637

mods.org

Wynwood Art Walk: Take a tour of street graffiti and more than 60 galleries in Wynwood, an art district just north of downtown Miami.

2219 N.W. 2nd Ave., Miami

305-814-9290

wynwoodartwalk.com

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