Sebastian is well known for the rare antiquities that have washed upon its shores. The shipwreck from the 1715 Spanish Plate Fleet left many treasures along Sebastian’s coast. A fleet of twelve ships left Havana, heavy laden with Spanish treasure and was driven into the Florida coast by a hurricane between the St. Lucie and Sebastian Inlets. In 1988, not far from the Sebastian Inlet, treasure hunters found an estimated $300,000 in pieces of eight, jewelry and other artifacts that had been waiting on the bottom since 1715. Many treasure hunters continue to search our shoreline for other artifacts that were lost in history. We have two treasure museums in town that have Spanish history: McLarty Treasure Museum and Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum.
McLarty Treasure Museum
The McLarty Treasure Museum is located on the site of the 1715 Spanish Plate Fleet salvaging camp; a site designated as a National Historical Landmark.
From the 1500’s to the early 1700’s, Spain mined vast quantities of silver and smaller amounts of gold in the mountains of Mexico and South America. Fashioned into ingots and coins, the treasure began its journey to Spain in wooden sailing vessels. The fleet encountered a large hurricane along Florida’s coast and sank on the shoals between Cape Canaveral and Stuart. Some 1500 survivors struggled ashore, set up camps and sent for help from Spanish colonies in St. Augustine and Cuba. The Spanish salvaged the wreck sites for four years and with the passage of time this catastrophe was forgotten.
In the early 1960’s, the wrecks were rediscovered and salvage operations recommenced. Modern salvaging techniques have yielded new discoveries that continue into the present.
The McLarty Treasure Museum is dedicated to telling the continuing story of the 1715 Spanish Plate Fleet. Original artifacts are on display including gear from the galleons, weapons, and treasure.
Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum
On July 24, 1715, a fleet of eleven Spanish Galleons and one French ship set sail from Havana Spain. All of the Spanish vessels perished in a storm off the east coast of Florida, near present day Sebastian. Seven hundred lives and over 14,000,000 pesos worth of treasure went down.
Another ship, the Atocha, met a similar fate in 1622. On July 20th, 1985, following a 16 year search, a salvage team led by Mel Fisher recovered the mother lode of the Atocha, from it’s nearly 370 year exile on the ocean floor…establishing the greatest discover in treasure salvaging history, both in archaeological and commercial terms. During the search for the Atocha, Fisher and his crew also discovered and raised treasure from the sister ship of the Atocha, The Santa Margarita and an English merchant slave ship, the Henrietta Marie, as well as the 1715 Plate Fleet near Sebastian.
When you enter Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum you will join the millions who have witnessed the most spectacular collection of Spanish artifacts and treasure ever assembled. You will also be granted the opportunity to watch as the treasure, still being uncovered from the 1715 Fleet, grows in quantity and spectacle in our recent recovery display. Observe on the spot preservation techniques through a special viewing window to our laboratory. Feel the weight of a solid gold bar recovered from the ocean depths. A visit to Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum affords you the distinct opportunity to own a piece of history, unique gold escudos or silver reales in fine jewelry settings, museum quality reproductions as well as other nautical gifts from our Gift Shop.
For more information on metal detecting in our area, visit the Treasure Coast Archaeological Society- Sebastian, FL at www.tcas.us.
For more information on the 300th Anniversary of the 1715 Fleet Disaster, visit the 1715 Fleet Society at http://www.1715fleetsociety.com/
Sebastian was recently featured on an episode of "how to Do Florida" that aired in June. how to Do florida is a broadcast show that entertains, teaches, and encourages Floridians to actively engage their state. The episode we are featured in is "how to Treasure Dive." Our area is well known for the rare antiquities that have washed upon its shores. The shipwreck from the 1715 Spanish Plate Fleet left many treasures along Sebastian's coast. Treasure hunters continue to search our waters for gold, jewelry, and other artifacts lost in history. Be sure to watch the online episode and learn more about our rich history and how you can get in on the thrill of treasure hunting!