Twenty-five years after Mel Fisher and his crew located the shipwrecked Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha off Key West, treasures and artifacts are still being discovered under the leadership of Fisher's son Kim Fisher and grandson Sean Fisher.
Meanwhile, to commemorate the find's 25th anniversary on Tuesday, July 20, rare Atocha artifacts are being debuted at the Key West museum established by Mel Fisher, who died in 1998.
The Atocha, carrying gold, silver and other riches from the New World home to Spain, sank in a 1622 hurricane.
Mel Fisher and his crew, including his wife and their children, spent 16 grueling years searching for the wreck site. They discovered the $450 million "main pile" of treasure and artifacts July 20, 1985, in approximately 55 feet of water 35 miles southwest of Key West.
Underwater archaeologists and divers recovered gold and silver coins and bars, contraband emeralds, jewelry, cannons and other weapons, pottery and unique navigational instruments from the site. But according to the Atocha's manifest, much remains undiscovered.
"Twenty-five years ago we found 47 tons of silver, but since then we've been looking for the rest of her," said Sean Fisher, who was then age 7 and is now vice-president of the family enterprise. "There's still another 130,000 silver coins and over 400 silver bars that we haven't found."
The wreck also yielded significant information about the Spanish empire and 17th-century shipboard life.
To commemorate the discovery's 25th anniversary, Key West's Mel Fisher Maritime Museum is debuting Atocha artifacts including a small cannon used during early Spanish salvage efforts, a detailed passenger list, grapnel anchors and a dynamic model of the sinking vessel based on archaeological and historical evidence.
"It shows the waves breaking over and people scurrying to do what they can to save themselves and the ship," said Corey Malcom, the museum's director of archaeology. "This is probably the most accurate representation of the Atocha in her final moments as we'll ever see."
Recent discoveries during the ongoing search, Sean Fisher said, include a gold bar, approximately 200 silver coins, 41 emeralds and rare arquebuses or 17th-century musket guns.
"When you find treasure on the bottom of the ocean, it makes your whole body tingle, it makes your whole body tremble — you're finding a piece of history," said Fisher. "If you ask any one of us Fishers what we're in it for, it's all about the hunt.