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Dive Different Vol 5: A Good, Old-fashioned, Ultra-modern Treasure Hunt

(DiverWire) Back in 2009, Diverwire covered a budding new possibility in the world of treasure diving. Mel Fisher’s Treasures had just opened its new program, allowing divers the opportunity to work with the salvage crew for a week at a time searching the Atocha Trail site off the coast of Key West during their summer season. $2,500 buys you a week of Key West accommodations, diving/treasure recovery on one of the team’s two ships servicing the Atocha Trail, the M/V Dare or the J.B. Magruber, as well as training in the process of looking for treasure, and a journey behind the scenes into the world and history of Mel’s team. To top it all off, if you personally recover any treasure, you will be given a piece of like-value to take home (new items must be cleaned, catalogued, and researched), up to your original $2,500. It was and still is quite of a deal!

PICT0262There are few amazing, dream-come-true vacations that end in the possibility to pay for themselves. If you’re looking to further entrench yourself in the world of treasure hunting, there is a variety of investor options, which allows and encourages unlimited dives with the crew. Investors collectively share the treasure haul from the year, allocated at a dispersal party (the best way to receive treasure is at a party, of course).

I personally came to know the Treasures team through the Wreck Racing League, Quest for Atocha Gold. Mel Fisher’s Treasures was an event sponsor, and during a presentation we learned it had been a landmark year for the expedition, which found a $500,000 emerald ring from the Atocha Trail that June. Recently I had a chance to experience the program first-hand and check in on some of the exciting new advancements since the program’s beginning. As we examine ways to Dive Different in 2013, how could we possibly skip treasure hunting?


Mel Fisher spent nearly seventeen years of his life searching for treasures, and endured lengthy legal battles with the state of Florida over the ownership of his findings. His children continue to run the business and have expanded the operation into the future.

PICT0246The 2013 season welcomed new technological advancements for the Treasure’s crew. Their new HAUV (Hybrid Autonomous Underwater Vehicle), Dolores, joined the crew this year and offers an array of new possibilities in treasure finding. Deployed from a special crane on the deck of the M/V Dare, Dolores uses an assortment of hi-tech sensors and systems, such as forward and side sonars, to map potential anomalies and targets. She has a phenomenal navigation system so sensitive that it allows her to fly centimeters off the sea floor, bringing high resolution images to a live feed back to the crew, as well as investors watching online. A magnetometer survey identifies whether material is iron or metal and could be geology or rocks, or better yet a shipwreck or man-made object. Mel Fisher’s is also partnering with a new group that is developing basically a large metal detector to be installed on the front of the HAUV, with such detailed information gathering capability, it’s considered the Holy Grail for the treasure hunting business. Also, Dolores can maneuver while tethered to the M/V Dare or under her own power up to 500 fathoms (yes that’s 3,000 feet deep). Maybe “Today’s the Day” Dolores will find the Lost Merchant ship or the stern castle from the Atocha, believed to be worth $400 million dollars.

PICT0309Dolores’ hunt only accounts for part of the treasure hunting process. When working a known area the on-site vessel use large vacuums (aka mailboxes), to suck up sand and debris. It either shoots the contents off to the side so divers can use underwater metal detectors or visually survey for treasure, or sends the debris into a series of sifting trays and chutes aboard the ship to be sorted. This is often done by non-diving spouses or investors, and is how many of the emeralds from the Atocha are recovered, some of which are the most valuable in the world.

There are limited spots left for this summer season weekly packages. Find out more about it during the Mel Fisher Days in Key West July 11-14th, a celebration to commemorate the 28th anniversary of the discovery of the “Motherload of the Atocha” Contact Mel Fishers to get on the waiting list or jump on the opportunity to become an investor and dive with the crew as much as you please. It’s a rare opportunity either way, or certainly one of the most extreme ways to Dive Different in 2013. Hope to “sea” you out there treasure hunters!