The ocean does not give up its secrets easily. This was to be my third dive here since 1997. I had discovered the anchor from the old shipwreck embedded in its rocky embrace in 1993 while spear fishing. A major car accident and subsequent surgeries had kept me from diving on the site as much as I had wanted to.
My first two dives had been done with a Whites PI underwater detector and I had been thrilled to recover 14 coins, a pewter spoon, some planking nails, and a timber spike. I had dug many iron targets and it had used much of my dive time. Now I was equipped with a new Whites Beach Hunter. It would be able to discriminate, and I hoped for less iron targets.
On my last dive I had been escorted out of the water by a 10-foot Great White shark. These coastal waters are known to be patrolled by these giants.
After my last dive I had sworn I would never come back, but the call of treasure had once again pulled me to the coast to scratch away for lost gold and silver. I had come to the spot many times to be turned away by heavy surf or murky conditions. I have been diving since I was 13 and now at 55, I followed my gut instincts and took no unnecessary chances. That is why I am alive and still diving at this age.
I came over to the coast two weeks before to be turned aside by the surf. Now things looked reasonably calm and clear. With my twin 72s and the new detector strapped to my side I entered the water and started paddling to the area, where my dreams came from.
The bottom disappeared at about 15 feet. This was good visibility for this spot. Just outside the reef where a kelp bed marked its location, I took a compass reading and again checked my air on the computer. I emptied my BCP and was soon spiraling down to the bottom with curious kelp fish swirling around me. I settled on the bottom at about 25 feet. It was magnificent every time I went down.
I saw the kelp forests rising like stately trees to the surface. You never forget it and each time it is like a new experience. A nosy perch circled me like he was looking for a handout. I unhooked my detector and tuned it. I took a compass bearing and headed for the wreck site.
Soon the familiar anchor loomed out of the mists of the ocean, and I began sweeping the sand. I began getting all kinds of signals, and the coin light was blinking away on the detectors counsel. I began to sift through the sand with my underwater sifter and soon was rewarded. My heart skipped a beat. It was one of the prettiest gold crosses that I had ever seen. No chain just the crucifix. I popped it into my goody bag and was soon swinging that detector over the sand again.
I soon was rewarded with the familiar encrusted coins that I had found before. Most of them had a green patina, and I guess them to be copper. I had not gotten any copper coins on my previous dives. They had all been silver except for the one gold half escudo. I stopped counting coins at 20. I had hit the mother lode of coins. The silver ones had the familiar black look to them. I would find out when I cleaned them. I headed over to the rocky reef where the Ballast piles were strewn up against the rocky monolith. I soon had a good hit.
After sifting the sand I had a gold coin in my gloves. It looked to be a 2 escudo. Checking my tanks I discovered I was down to halfway, so I headed for the surface like I always do. Better safe than sorry I always say. Besides I had another full set of twin 75s on the shore, and there was plenty of daylight left for another dive. I was soon safely on the shore and quickly setting up the new tanks. I was tired but the thrill of the finds energized me. Back into the water and out to the site I swam.
And I was again soon sifting sand at every good hit of the detector. I lost count of the coins. I was like a mechanical machine sifting and recovering coins. I almost lost a small gold coin with weird markings on it. It was so small it almost went through the sifters grates. I never stopped for iron, as I wasnt after relics.
All I wanted was coins, preferably gold. I was a one-man operation and I only get here every couple of years. While fanning away the sand I found a beautiful green plate. It had encrustations all over it and I could see that it looked to be porcelain. I stuffed it down the front of my suit where it would be safe.
Coin after coin came up from the 30-foot area I was working. Finally my tanks showed that they were past the half way mark so I headed for the surface. Better discretion than sorrow. I headed back to shore on the surface, which I always hated. I had a phobia about being on the surface, not knowing what was watching me below.
Back on shore I breathed a sigh of relief and quickly stowed my gear, carefully putting up the plate and the coins I had recovered. It was a long drive home and I was elated to get back. After cleaning the salt from my gear it was off to bed. I was exhausted.
In the morning I sifted through my finds over a cup of Joe. Two gold coins, nine silver coins, and eighty-nine copper coins, plus the plate, which I was soaking in water. What a haul I had made. Now the fun of cleaning them would begin.
It required hours of soaking and patient cleaning. A coin expert informed me that the small gold coin was from India and it was called a Fanham.
It was from the 17th century. The other gold coin was a 1781 Carlos 2 escudo. My silver coins turned out to be 4 Reale and 2 Reale pieces. The copper coins were mostly Spanish Maravedis. There was a Portuguese 1735 Reis, and a 1625 English Farthing.
The English coins stamp matched the emblem of the pewter spoon that I had found on my previous dive. So it had to be a Charles the First from 1625 Era. There was a Dutch Duit from 1739 and all the Maravedis were from the 1600s and 1700s. Quite a mixture of coins I thought. My total from three dives was 89 copper coins, 23 silver coins, and three gold coins.
The earliest coins were from the early 1600s and the latest coin was dated 1798. This meant that the ship had gone down after 1798. There was the pewter spoon, and the planking nails, which were copper. Then there was the huge iron timber spike, and the porcelain plate to add to the mixture. The plate according to an expert was from the 18th century and was Ching dynasty, a Min Yao plate.
Was this, the captains hoard? Was this a Manila Galleon? The Min Yao plate and India coin showed she had been in the east. Only further dives would tell, and maybe this will be a secret I will take with me to my maker.
Always keep researching, searching and finding.