Fatal Treasure

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Fatal Treasure

Greed and Death, Emeralds and Gold, and the Obsessive Search for the Legendary Ghost Galleon Atocha (2003)

By Jedwin Smith

Nowadays, I like to read totally unrelated books to my job or interest. This is one of those totally unrelated topics – finding for treasure in the sea. One thing I realise is that when you read a new topic or something different, it really widens one’s perspective in life.

This book talks about Mel Fisher(August 21, 1922 – December 19, 1998), an American treasure hunter. There was even a Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West, Florida. Fisher was a former California chicken farmer who got interested in scuba diving during its infancy in the 1950s. One thing led to another, and Mel searched for and discovered Spanish treasure near Florida’s Sebastian Inlet before moving his family to the Keys in 1969 to search for the Atocha and her sister ship Santa Margarita, two of Spain’s most bountiful treasure galleons that sank somewhere near Florida during a 1622 hurricane.

He took 16 years to find his treasure. Wow… what a man… this person must have real passion and belief in his pursuit to take 16 years. Most people will have lost that in less than 1 year, 3 years,5 years or 10 years… not to mention 16 years. However during his pursuit, he lost his oldest son and daughter in law to the sea.

I like some of the words mentioned in the book.
Still not satisfied, Kincaid reminded everyone there was no such thing as being safe at sea. That was just an illusion. “Believe me,” he said,”everytime you board a boat or enter the water and return home safe and sound, you’ve cheated death.”

“As for what the average diver received? First of all, we were paid in treasure, and treasure ain’t real money,” said Jonas. In the book, it was mentioned that when the treasure was appraised, they have to find money to pay huge amount of taxes to Internal Revenue Service, IRS. In fact, most of the time they have to struggle to sell the treasure because of the sudden glut of antiquities on the market.

Other than money, the divers contend that the most damaging thing about the end of the hunt for the Atocha was psychological. They have undergone years or months without pay, scrounging for meals, living under harsh conditions while working on the boats. Then suddenly they found incredible riches yet knowing the treasure was not theirs to keep, having to hand it over first to the government, which in turn give it back to Mel Fisher, who then distributed it first among his numerous investors. They also have suffered the trauma of deaths of loved ones and friends who have lost their lives in the sea.

Mel Fisher refused to be intimidated by the government, fighting with them at every turn for the treasures. The government’s arguement over ownership of the Margarita and the Atocha boiled down to sovereign prerogative, going back to English common law, which holds that anything washed up on shore from a sunken ship belongs to the Crown. If a peasant found it, he had to turn it over to the Crown, and he might or might not receive a reward. The other part of sovereign prerogative was fornication (olden word which means consensual sexual intercourse between 2 people not married, premartial sex) under command of the king, the right of the first night.

“Since all of the peons out there were under the king’s prerogative, he had the right to deflower any virgin in the land on her wedding night. We had the American Revolution, in part, because we thought that was bullshit.”

The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which 13 colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America.

wow… i really like the above… so much for those greedy politicians.

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