HUTCHINSON ISLAND, FL - 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 ago.
"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 there." 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."