Finders, Keepers: Sunken Treasure Found Off Vero Beach, And $400 Million May Still Be Underwater

In shallow waters about a dozen feet from Vero Beach, Florida, a sunken treasure tells a story of both tragedy and unimaginable wealth.

In late July, divers plucked $4.5 million worth of gold coins from a 300-year-old shipwreck. This discovery was made a mere month after another $1 million was uncovered at the site, WPBF reported.

And there is much more to be discovered.

On July 24, 1715, 11 ships left Havana, Cuba, for Spain. They contained "the queen's jewels," USA Today reported, a stash of jewelry and gold worth an unimaginable $400 million. Unfortunately, the fleet hit a hurricane on July 31, and it was all lost at sea. The booty has remained sunken ever since.

But much more was lost -- 1,000 people died that day.

These days, Brent Brisben owns exclusive rights to search the sunken ships for its riches through his company 1715 Fleet-Queen's Jewels, WPBF added. It was his divers who made the amazing discovery last month.

"People love treasure stories. It resonates with everybody — every demographic, young and old, rich and poor. People freak out that we're literally 10-15 feet off the (Vero Beach) in 2-3 feet of water."

And it wasn't easy for them to unearth the huge sunken treasure that they did find; Bisden told CBS 12 that "there's no real rhyme and reason to how a hurricane destroys a wooden ship. Pieces of that ship floated for miles away."

After an extensive search, the team spotted more than 300 coins, and they just so happened to make the discovery on the 300th anniversary of the shipwreck, added co-captain of the group's ship, S/V Capitana, Jonah Martinez. He described the moment divers found the loot off Vero Beach and let their captain, Bisben, know.

"I said, we're in shallow waters and a storm is coming. We hit it. He said, 'Is the boat ok?' I said, 'Yeah, but we found a few gold coins.' He was a little bit busy and he goes 'I don't have time for this.'"
This latest treasure found at Vero Beach has proven so lucrative thanks to a coin called Royals. Together, these make up much of the find's value; only nine were among with the rest of the booty. Each are valued at $300,000 and are so special because they were made especially for the King of Spain, Phillip V. These nine Royals comprise 30 percent of all those known to exist worldwide.

Remarkably, Bisben and his crew will get to keep some of the loot. The family who found a stash last month are subcontractors of Brent's group and were able to keep theirs, too. The state of Florida technically owns the plunder, but keeps 20 percent for display in museums. The rest goes to the discoverers.

And the group will keep looking for the rest of the "queen's jewels," which, right now, are just waiting to be unearthed off the coast of Florida.

[Photo Courtesy YouTube Screengrab]