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Treasure Coast Trivia: Shipwrecks & Treasure

The Treasure Coast earned its name from the numerous shipwrecks scattered across its waters. The fascination with discovering riches from centuries past captivates adventurers and historians alike.

1) The ships that comprised the 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet that sunk off Florida’s Treasure Coast were two different fleets. a) True

b) False

True: The 1715 Treasure Fleet was a combination of two fleets returning from the New World to Spain, the "Nueva España Fleet", under Capt.-General Don Juan Esteban de Ubilla, and the "Tierra Firme Fleet", under Don Antonio de Echeverz y Zubiza. The fleets had convened in Havana, Cuba, and then crossed the Atlantic together until they reached the Caribbean, where Ubilla’s fleet sailed toward Mexico and Escheverz’s fleet toward Colombia.

2) What event led to the sinking Spanish ships off the coast of Florida, resulting in the scattering of treasure along the coastline?

a) Encounter with pirates

b) Collision with rocks

c) Devastating hurricane

d) Mutiny among crews

Hurricane: At two in the morning on Wednesday, July 31, 1715, seven days after departing from Havana, Cuba, eleven ships of the combined fleet were lost in a hurricane along the east coast of Florida. A 12th ship, the French frigate "Le Grifon", had sailed with the fleet. Its captain was unfamiliar with the Florida coastline and elected to stay further out to sea. The "Grifon" safely returned to Europe.

3) What is the primary type of treasure found along Florida's Treasure Coast?

a) Diamonds

b) Gold & Silver

c) Emeralds

d) Copper

Gold & Silver: The area’s shipwrecks are often associated with gold, including coins, bars and jewelry. But plenty of silver has also been recovered- particularly in modern-day salvage operations. This is also why the fleet is also known as the 1715 Plate Fleet (from the Spanish word plata for silver). One of the largest finds of silver happened in 1961 when treasure hunter Kip Wagner and crew found more than 6000 silver coins near Fort Pierce. These were mostly “pieces of eight” which was common currency in Spain at the time of the wrecks.   Wagner went on to form the “Real Eight Company” following those initial discoveries. Later, he published a book titled “Pieces of Eight.” 

4) In addition to gold and silver, what other types of artifacts have been recovered from shipwrecks along Florida's Treasure Coast?

a) Emeralds

b) Ceramics and navigational instruments

c) Aluminum

d) Wooden planks

Ceramics and navigational instruments: Alongside precious metals like gold and silver, artifacts such as ceramics and navigational instruments have been recovered from shipwrecks along Florida's Treasure Coast. These artifacts provide valuable insights into maritime history and trade routes of the past.

5) What other name is often used to describe the 1715 Treasure Fleet?

a) 1715 Plate Fleet

b) 1715 Pirate Fleet

c) Santa Margarita

d) The Atocha

The 1715 Treasure Fleet has also been referred to as the 1715 Plate Fleet because the fleet was carrying silver, plata being the Spanish word for silver. During that time the Spanish currency was eight reales, silver coins that could be physically cut into eight pieces, now referred to as “pieces of eight.”

6) Who holds salvage rights to a portion of the 1715 Spanish Fleet wreck site off the coast of Florida, while the State of Florida retains ownership over other sections?

a) The State of Florida

b) Brent Brisben’s company, 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels LLC

c) The Spanish government

d) Amazon

1715 Fleet - Queens Jewels, LLC, holds exclusive salvage rights to the remains of the 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet wreck sites.  Entrepreneur Brent Brisben purchased the salvage rights from the heirs of Mel Fisher, one of the best-known treasure hunters in the world.  But any artifact recovered from wreck sites goes into the custody of the US District Court of Florida and the state is entitled to up to 20% of anything discovered by 1715 Fleet- Queen’s Jewels LLC and its subcontractors.    

7) Which environmental impacts should treasure hunters be cautious of when using metal detectors along Florida's Treasure Coast?

a) Soil erosion

b) Noise pollution

c) Habitat destruction

d) Wildlife disturbance

All of the above.  When using metal detectors, treasure hunters often dig or disturb the ground, leading to soil erosion, especially in sensitive coastal environments. Additionally, metal detectors emit audible signals when detecting metal objects, contributing to noise pollution, which can disturb wildlife and detract from the recreational experience of other beachgoers. Treasure hunters who dig large holes and don’t fill them in create obstacles to nesting sea turtles and hatchlings. Searching dune areas is not only destructive, it’s illegal.  Therefore, it's essential for treasure hunters to

8) Anybody can search for treasure in the waters of the Treasure Coast.

a) True

b) False

False: You cannot search for treasure from the 1715 Fleet in the water (at all) without a permit from 1715 Fleet – Queens Jewels, LLC.  Even independent divers may not retrieve artifacts, however incidental their find, without reporting and turning them over to the company. The same goes for beachcombers and metal detection enthusiasts even where the water laps at the shore.  The dry sands of the beaches, however, are a different situation.  For the most part, if you happen upon an actual find, such as a gold or silver coin, on land it is yours to keep.  However, when using a metal detector there are a number of laws to be aware of.  National parks are off-limits for this kind of activity.  Other regulations also apply to these devices. 

9) What is the name of the shipwreck marked with a flag near Sexton Plaza in Vero Beach?

a) Nuestra Señora de la Popa

b) Nuestra Señora de las Nieves

c) SS Breconshire

d) Nuestra Señora de la Maravilla

The SS Breconshire: A British steamship used for commercial purposes, sank off the coast of Vero Beach in 1894 after running aground on a reef during a storm. Although it was not known to have been carrying any valuable cargo or treasure, the wreck is significant historically and is located near Sexton Plaza in Vero Beach, making it a notable diving and historical attraction. The wreck lies in relatively shallow waters off the coast of Vero Beach, making it a popular dive site for enthusiasts interested in maritime history and underwater exploration.


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