The History of the Treasure Coast

Posted by on Monday, October 10th, 2016 at 2:45pm.

Florida’s coastline from Sebastian to Jupiter is known as “The Treasure Coast”. In 1715, two fleets of Spanish ships were on a trip to collect treasure.

One fleet was a force of 5 ships called the New Spain Flota. This fleet went to Mexico to load up with gold, silver, and emeralds. The other fleet consisted of six ships and was called the Tierra Firme. This fleet went to South America to gather gold, silver, and pearls. After they were done, the two fleets went to Cuba to regroup before the long journey of heading back to Spain as one fleet.

These ships were carrying an estimated two hundred million to one billion dollars in today’s money. The fleet had a French warship by its side to protect against pirates along the way home. Five days into the trip back to Spain, the fleet began to experience harsh waters and strong winds. These brutal conditions forced the fleet off of their original path and a day and a half later when the storm hit full force, eleven of the twelve ships were sunken off of what we now call The Treasure Coast.

The only survivor was the French warship who took a different path as soon as the conditions got tough. It was estimated that 700-1000 sailors lost their lives in this tragic accident. Most of the ships were wrecked in shallow enough water for free divers to go down and recover the lost treasures. Pirates began to come to the coast as word got around about the tragedy.

The salvage efforts were cut short in 1719 and nothing was told until the 1960’s when an Indian River County man recovered a silver coin from the fleet. He then formed a recovery crew and found about three million dollars worth of treasures. In today's time, there are some occasional coins or other treasures that wash ashore after major storms but most of them are already in museums around the state.

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