On July 30th, 1715, seven ships in a Spanish fleet heading from Havana, Cuba to Spain were sunk by a hurricane.
They were seven of eleven ships making the transatlantic journey, and 1,000 sailors drowned at sea. Also on board those ships was $400 million worth of gold, meant to be delivered to the queen. Instead, men like William Bartlett are finding coins — still worth millions — all along the Florida coast.
Bartlett and a group of divers were only twenty feet off the shore, on their third dive of the day, when they stumbled across the coins. Bartlett, accompanied by the 1715 Fleet Queens Jewels Salvage Crew, slowly started dusting away nearly 300 gold coins. The find was worth a total of 4.5 million dollars.
"For a treasure diver such as myself, a find like this is the equivalent of winning an Olympic gold medal," Bartlett said in an email to USA Today.
But among those coins were a few incredible rare pieces.
The larger coins that Bartlett and the crew found were about as rare as they come. They are called "Royals" and up until discovering nine of them in this treasure, there were only 20 known to the world, and worth $300,000 a piece. Specifically designed for King Phillip V, the coins were presented when King Phillip V wanted to express appreciation for important people in the monarchy.
Perhaps most amazing, though, was the day they found them.
Believe it or not, the coins were discovered on the 300th anniversary of the shipwreck, July 30th 2015.
"People love treasure stories. It resonates with everybody — every demographic, young and old, rich and poor," Brent Brisben, owner of 1715 Fleet Queens Jewels LLC, told USA Today. "People freak out that we're literally 10-15 feet off the beach in 2-3 feet of water."
In fact, just a few weeks before a man named Eric Schmitt — coincidentally one of Brisben's subcontractors — found 52 gold coins worth more than $1 million on a Florida beach. The July 30th find simply ended an incredible month for treasure hunters in Florida.
The crew that made the discovery believes there is still close to $400 million worth of treasure, both gold and silver, off the coast. They announced they will be donating 20 percent of whatever they find to state museums.