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Family Finds 300-year old Golden Treasure in Shallow Florida Coast

Saturday August 1, 2015    12:17 PM

Within days of the anniversary that a Spanish fleet wrecked in a hurricane off the coast of Florida 300 years ago, a family of treasure divers uncovered a million dollars in rare gold coins and artifacts hiding in just 15 feet of water.

1,000 feet off the coast of Fort Pierce, Eric Schmitt and his family rejoiced in the discovery after diving in the area for several years. They will get half the bounty of everything recovered, once the state claims up to 20% if some rarities should be in a museum.

The Florida salvage company who owns the rights to excavate the 300 square-mile underwater area, Queens Jewels, LLC, will get the other half.

The gold was part of a huge bounty of riches aboard eleven ships returning to Spain from the New World. The cargo aboard the Tierra Firme fleet included jewels for the new bride of King Philip V of Spain–but all was lost on July 31, 1715, when all eleven ships sunk in the hurricane.

Since 2010, crews have scoured the area contracted by the salvage company. Divers this time around recovered 51 gold coins and 40 feet of ornate gold chain, a haul that left the co-founder of Queen Jewels shaking.

"I was blown away," he told National Geographic.

If any metal detectors owners in the area are interested in searching for treasure, they will need to stay on shore. If any gold coins wash up, they're up for grabs.

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