The most famous shipwreck in the history of mankind is Titanic, but aside from that, there are thousands of shipwrecks that occurred in our massive ocean and along with those shipwrecks, are treasures being discovered. There are many valuable shipwreck treasures that are yet to be found and recovered that’s why treasure hunting and wreck diving have become an interesting activity to a lot of people, not just to professional treasure hunters but also to amateur treasure hunters and even to the common men.
If you’re wondering what treasures have been found in shipwrecks and how they are retrieved, here are some of the greatest shipwreck treasures ever found.
The Antikythera shipwreck occurred in the Roman-era dating from the second quarter of the first century BC. It was around Easter 1900 when Captain Dimitrios Kondos and his crew of sponge divers sailed through the Aegean en route to fishing grounds off North America. They decided to stop at the Greek island of Antikythea to wait for favorable winds. While waiting, they decided to dive off the island’s coasts wearing their suits and copper helmets which are the standard diving dresses that time.
Diver Elias Stadiatis dove to 45 meters deep but he then quickly signaled to be pulled to the surface. It’s because he saw on the seafloor a heap of rotting corpses and horses strewn among the rocks. However, Kondos thought the diver was just drunk from nitrogen in his breathing mix so he decided to dive in as well. When Kondos returned to the surface, he was carrying an arm of a bronze statue. After that, they just continued diving for sponges.
At the end of the season, his team decided to return to Antikythera and they’ve retrieved several artifacts from the wreck. Kondos reported their finds to authorities in Athens. The Hellenic Navy vessels were sent to support the salvage effort in November 1900 and it occurred until 1901.
In 2012, a marine archaeologist named Brendan Foley received permission from the Greek government to conduct new dives around the island of Antikythera. His team of divers began a preliminary survey in October 2012 using a rebreather technology which allowed extended dives down to a depth of 70 meters or 230 feet. They’ve completed the underwater circumnavigation of the island and documented some isolated finds. The shipwreck yielded more treasures from 2012 till 2014. Some of the treasures found are bronze chair, gold jewelry, jars, gold coins, and much more.
In September 2017, there was a “Return to Antikythera Expedition” which was conducted by experts from the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and Lund University in Sweden. Using a bespoke underwater metal detector, divers found the disembodied arm. Archaeologists still continue to search for bronze sculptures in the shipwreck in the present time.
Treasure of the S.S. Republic
The S.S. Republic was lost in 1865 off the coast of Georgia during a hurricane. It was carrying coins which are worth an estimated $400,000. After being submerged for more than 230 years, it was finally discovered by Odyssey, which is a well-known deep sea exploration and salvage company. In the present time, more than fifty-one thousand US gold and silver coins have been recovered from the site together with almost fourteen thousand artifacts including thousands of bottles, glasses, and stoneware containers. After the first excavation of the shipwreck a man filed a claim against Odyssey stating that they used his information to locate the wreck. But the federal judge ruled in favor of Odyssey, and in 2004, they awarded Odyssey the full ownership of the cargo.
The Diamond Shipwreck
The Diamond shipwreck was one of the biggest shipwreck treasure finds in history. This shipwreck did not require any kind of scuba gear for it to be found because it was uncovered on a beach buried deep in the sand. Geologists working for De Beers stumbled upon the site and they were stunned to come across such a thing. Some even described it as the find of a lifetime. They uncovered tons of ingots, enormous amounts of gold coins, silver, copper, swords, and other weapons. However, the total value of the treasure is still being valued.
The Belitung Shipwreck
This shipwreck is also called the Tang shipwreck. It is the wreck of an Arabian dhow which sailed from Africa to China around 830 CE. But on its return journey, it sank approximately 1 mile off the coast of Belitung Island, Indonesia.
In 1998, it was discovered in 51 feet of water by fishermen in the Gelasa Strait. The site location was then purchased from local fishermen by a local Indonesian company. They also had a license to excavate the wreck. Their excavation was financed and was done by Tilman Walterfang together with his team at Seabed Explorations. The riches they found consist of an assortment of spice jars, inkwells, gilt-silver boxes, and crystals. There were also rubies, sapphires, a silver flask, and the largest gold cup ever found. The cargo was purchased by the Singaporean Government after the excavation. Then they indefinitely loaned it to the Singapore Tourism Board.
Nuestra Señora de Atocha, a Spanish ship carrying tons of ingots, copper, jewels, silver, gold, and other precious metals sank off the Florida Keys in 1622. All of its passengers were killed except three sailors and two slaves. When the news about the shipwreck reached Havana, five ships were sent by the Spanish authorities to salvage it. Unfortunately, there were more hurricanes which made the salvage a failure. The Spanish authorities undertook the salvage operations which occurred for years but the Atocha was never recovered.
In 1985, a famous treasure hunter named Mel Fisher found the Atocha, and its motherlode of gold, silver, copper, and emeralds were finally discovered after spending more than 16 years searching for it.
Mel Fisher owned a dive shop in California which he built because of this love for diving. He first learned skin diving and eventually learned how to scuba dive using the aqualung invented by Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan in France in 1941. But when he learned about treasure hunting in shipwrecks, he sold his business and home in California and decided to move with his family to Florida. He made an invention called the “mailbox” which helped him and his team find gold. Then he decided to look for the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, which took them more than 16 years before they finally found it in 1985. Up to the present time, the wreckage is still being explored and excavated.
These are just some of the many shipwreck treasures that have been found. Some of them were found years ago. The equipment used by divers and salvage companies in the past to retrieve treasures from shipwrecks were not clearly documented. But today, different tools and equipment have been invented to use in wreck diving in order to find treasures easier such as tow-fish or underwater metal detectors, underwater light systems, and as well as underwater cameras and video systems.
There are still thousands of shipwrecks all over the world that are yet to be found. Are you willing to dive deep under water to find shipwreck treasures?