KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Shipwreck fans, treasure seekers and history buffs can commemorate salvager Mel Fisher's discovery of the sunken Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha Thursday through Saturday, July 13-15, in the island city he called home.
In July 1985 Fisher and his crew uncovered Atocha treasure and artifacts valued at $450 million after an exhaustive 16-year search. The galleon sank during a 1622 hurricane in approximately 55 feet of water 35 miles southwest of Key West.
Mel Fisher Days highlights include tours of the salvage boat J.B. Magruder that is used to seek still-undiscovered Atocha artifacts, exclusive explorations of the Fishers' conservation lab, opportunities to hear tales from the crew that found the Atocha riches, a dock party and the chance to win an authentic Atocha treasure coin valued at $1,400.
Thursday and Friday's schedule features limited-admission behind-the-scenes tours of the private conservation laboratory at Mel Fisher's Treasures, 200 Greene St. (side entrance), where rare Atocha artifacts and treasures are conserved and studied.
Saturday features a dock party from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Schooner Wharf Bar, 202 William St. in the Key West Historic Seaport, with appearances by members of the "golden crew" that discovered the Atocha's riches in 1985.
The 90-foot Magruder is to be berthed behind the bar and open for tours from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Captain Andy Matroci and other crewmembers will guide the tours and share tales of treasure finds, explain search techniques and display state-of-the-art technology they use to explore the ocean floor.
Other attractions during the dock party include a silent auction featuring more than $15,000 in goods ranging from gourmet dinners to authentic treasures. Attendees also can enjoy a live auction, music, contests and raffles, book signings, the announcement of the winner of the Atocha coin and the presentation of the prestigious Mel Fisher Lifetime Achievement Award.
One hundred percent of net festival proceeds benefit the Florida Keys' Wesley House Family Services Inc.
Event schedule, costs and registration: melfisherdays.com
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY
Three members of the Golden Crew welcome the J.B. Magruder at the Schooner Wharf Dock. Image: Nick Doll
The galleon sank during a 1622 hurricane in approximately 55 feet of water 35 miles southwest of Key West, and bulged with treasure.