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INTO THE BLUE

Diving For Buried Treasure
By many accounts, the estimated value of sunken treasure in the world's oceans ranges from billions to trillions of dollars.

Dating back to the 1400's and Spain's discovery of the New World, through the legendary years of privateers and pirates such as the infamous Blackbeard, who established his headquarters in the Bahamas in the 1700s, countless ships were sent from Europe to the Americas to reap the vast riches and resources of the area.

Laden with gold, silver and jewels, the ships and galleons often journeyed through the clear waters of the Caribbean on their return voyages. Commandeered by pirates, beset by hurricanes, of the roughly 13,000 ships destined for Spain alone, it is estimated that as many half sunk before reaching Europe2.

Basing Into the Blue in the Bahamas was a logical choice from the perspective of discovering sunken treasure. The islands have historically proven to be dangerous territory for ships — making them extremely appealing to modern-day treasure hunters and salvagers. The natural geography of the Bahamas also rendered them attractive to brigands and pirates, as they could easily hide their ships among the many islets and take unsuspecting vessels by surprise. Dangerous reefs and rough weather posed even greater risks. Over the centuries, more than 500 Spanish galleons are said to have been lost in Bahamian waters alone3.

The vast majority of the bounty from these ships is still lying in wait on the ocean floor. They remain hidden for hundreds of years until a hurricane suddenly renders the invisible visible and shifts on the ocean floor cause priceless artifacts to loosen from their watery graves and wash up onto the shore.

While so much of these valuable riches seem to be within easy reach, salvagers nonetheless risk their lives and invest years and millions of dollars in their treasure hunting ventures since the payoff is potentially enormous. Noted dive pioneer and discoverer, Mel Fisher, spent 16 years in the Florida Keys searching for the Spanish ship Nuestra SeƱora de Atocha, which was reputedly one of the richest shipwrecks ever lost. In 1985, Fisher realized his dream, finding the sunken galleon in only 55 feet of water with a treasure estimated at $400 million. Still greater treasures are waiting on the ocean floor — just a breath away.

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