Spain’s American colonies formed the center of a trade network that spanned the globe. Fleets of wooden sailing ships were responsible for carrying rich cargoes of New World bullion and fine European and Asian goods, and guarding them from the ever-present threat of pirates.
Even more dangerous than the pirates, however, were the volatile weather conditions and invisible natural obstacles beneath the waves, especially along the Atlantic coast of Florida. The combination of these factors led to the disastrous sinking of entire fleets of ships, making this stretch of coastline the site of the highest density of shipwrecks per mile in the world and giving it the nickname of “the Treasure Coast.”
From the perspective of the modern shipwreck salvor, the remnants of these ships represent an opportunity to retrieve lost pieces of history from an underwater time capsule. In order to recover them, however, one must navigate complex legal issues, outfit a recovery vessel with state-of-the-art underwater detection equipment, and establish an artifact conservation laboratory.
Through meticulous mapping, seemingly mundane finds in a debris field such as ballast stones and cannon balls can become critical clues in the search for an answer to a centuries-old mystery.
Mel King's passion for underwater exploration began with a trip to Key West in 1975. As an assistant director at North Broward Medical Center, Mel spent his leisure time exploring and searching numerous shipwreck and historical sites in Florida and the Bahamas. Spanish Colonial coins and shipwreck artifacts became his specialty. In 1986, he founded Big Blue Wreck Salvage, Inc. to represent an investor group's interest in the Nuestra Señora de Atocha. He is currently consulting on shipwreck salvage projects in Florida and South America, and is directly involved with the on-going recovery efforts of 1715 Fleet sites in Sebastian, Florida.
Free for Alianza members and students with current ID, $5 DAM members, $10 others.
Sponsored by Alianza de las Artes Americanas, a DAM support group.