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Treasure-hunting Sanford family strikes gold

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Most treasure hunters go a lifetime and never take home a single piece of silver. But one Sanford family is now among the divers who struck gold — and a lot of it.

The treasure-hunting Schmitt family uncovered this weekend what could be $300,000 worth of gold chains and coins off the coast of Fort Pierce.

“This is like the end of a dream,” said Rick Schmitt, who owns Booty Salvage.

The discovery came about 150 yards offshore and only 15 feet down. Schmitt’s family — along with diver and friend, Dale Zeak — said they found 64 feet of thin gold chain that weighed in at more than three pounds, five gold coins and a gold ring.

Brent Brisben, co-founder of 1715 Fleet – Queens Jewels LLC, the company that owns the rights to dive on the wreckage site, came up with what he called a conservative estimated value of the haul.

“To be the first person to touch an artifact in 300 years, is indescribable,” Brisben said Monday. “They were there 150 years before the Civil War. It’s truly remarkable to be able to bring that back.”

Schmitt’s company is a subcontractor of Brisben’s company.

Things haven’t typically gone so well.

“We’re world-class recyclers,” said Schmitt’s daughter, 20-year-old Hillary Schmitt, while laughing.

Like most hunters, she was used to dredging up old beer cans and broken fishing equipment on her summer excursions aboard her family’s vessel, the AARRR Booty. She has been diving with her family since she was 6.

The centuries-old loot came from a fleet of Spanish ships struck by a strong hurricane off Florida’s coast on July 30, 1715. More than 1,000 people were killed in the storm that claimed 11 of the dozen ships.

Mounds of gold, silver and other artifacts were spilled across the ocean floor. Some was recovered in the years after the storm, but many treasure hunters and historians believe that millions of dollars in silver and gold still remain, according to the Queens Jewels website.

Florida’s Treasure Coast was named after the disaster.

Brisben also struck gold this summer. One of his ships raked in 51 gold coins worth about $250,000.

The state gets the first pick of the treasure. Up to 20 percent of the rarest finds will be displayed in museums. The rest will be split equally between Brisben’s company and the Schmitts.

Even so, for the Schmitt family, the hunt is about more than just the money.

“The greatest treasure is time with the family,” said Lisa Schmitt, Rick Schmitt’s wife.

Her husband went on his first treasure dive near the Sebastian Inlet when he was a teenager in 1964.

Over the decades, 65-year-old Rick Schmitt has been on hundreds of excursions between Fort Pierce and the Sebastian Inlet. Although he and his crew have found coins and other artifacts in the past, he said this is the largest find he has ever come across.

But it wasn’t until Schmitt sold his Sanford-based pest control business in 1999 and retired, that he started his family’s diving salvage business.

In 2002, his son, Eric Schmitt, then a Lake Mary High School sophomore, had his first big find near Sebastian. He uncovered a silver platter minted in Mexico nearly 300 years ago. The platter was worth about $25,000, Brisben said.

The Schmitts used their first ship, Booty Quest, until it was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Frances in 2004. Last season, which generally lasts from Memorial Day to Labor Day, was their first time diving on their own vessel since then.

Last year, they found only a single gold coin on Labor Day.

But as Lisa Schmitt said, that is the life of a treasure hunter.

Source: Orlando Sentinel

Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Book Review: Plankton

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Plankton: A Worldwide Guide by Tom Jackson and Jennifer Parker

This is a book that jumps off the shelf at you. The striking front cover demands that you pick it up and delve further, even if you may not have known you wanted to learn more about the most diminutive life in our ocean, plankton!

Small it might be. Much of the imagery in the book has been taken under huge magnification. Revealing stunning beauty and diversity in each scoop of “soup”. There is lots to learn. Initial chapters include interesting facts about the different vertical zones they inhabit, from sunlight to midnight (the darkest and deepest areas). I loved finding out more about the stunning show that divers oft encounter on night dives – bioluminescence.

The black water images are wonderful. So this is a book you can have as a coffee table book to dip in and our of. But, these tiny organisms are also vital to our very survival and that of all the marine life we love. They provide half the oxygen produced on our planet. They are also responsible for regulating the planets climate. And for a shark lover like me – they are food for charismatic sharks and rays like the Basking Shark and Manta Ray, along with a huge number of other species. This book contains great insight into their biology, life cycles, migration, and how the changes in currents and sea temperatures affects them.

This is a book that is both beautiful and packed with information about possibly the most important group of organisms on our planet. Anyone interested in the ocean should have it one their shelves.

What the publisher says:

Plankton are the unsung heroes of planet Earth. Passive drifters through the world’s seas, oceans, and freshwater environments, most are invisible or very small, but some are longer than a whale. They are the global ocean’s foundation food, supporting almost all oceanic life, and they are also vitally important for land-based plants, animals, and other organisms. Plankton provides an incomparable look at these remarkable creatures, opening a window on the elegance and grace of microscopic marine life.

This engaging book reveals the amazing diversity of plankton, how they belong to a wide range of living groups, and how their ecology, lifestyles, and adaptations have evolved to suit an enormous range of conditions. It looks at plankton life cycles, the different ways plankton feed and grow, and the vast range of strategies they use for reproduction. It tracks where, how, and why plankton drift through the water; shares perspectives on migrations and population explosions or “blooms” and why they happen; and discusses the life-sustaining role of plankton in numerous intertwined food webs throughout the world.

Beautifully illustrated, Plankton sheds critical light on how global warming, pollution, diminishing resources, and overexploitation will adversely impact planktonic life, and how these effects will reverberate to every corner of our planet.

About the Authors:

Tom Jackson is a science writer whose many popular books include Strange Animals and Genetics in MinutesJennifer Parker is a zoology and conservation writer and the author of several books. Andrew Hirst is a leading expert on plankton whose research has taken him around the world, from the Antarctic to Greenland and the Great Barrier Reef.

Book Details

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Hardcover

Price: £25

ISBN: 9780691255996

Published: 9th April, 2024

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Marine Life & Conservation

Dive with a Purpose: Shark Guardian’s Expedition Galapagos

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Shark Guardian has just unveiled their largest and most exciting expedition yet: a seven-night, eight-day adventure in August 2026 aboard the Galaxy Diver II, a state-of-the-art
vessel specifically designed for divers exploring the enchanting waters of the Galapagos
Islands. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to engage deeply with marine
conservation in one of the world’s most revered diving destinations.

Shark Guardian is a UK registered charity dedicated to protecting sharks and marine
ecosystems worldwide. Founded by marine biologists and conservationists, Brendon
Sing and Liz Ward-Sing, Shark Guardian leads educational programs, research projects,
campaigns and expeditions aimed at fostering a better understanding and respect for
marine life. Their work spans several continents and focuses on direct action,
education, and advocacy.

Shark Guardian’s ethos revolves around the concept of “diving with a purpose.” This
philosophy underscores the importance of not just experiencing the wonders of the
underwater world but actively learning and contributing to its preservation. Participants
in Shark Guardian expeditions engage in citizen science projects, which involve
collecting data that supports ongoing research and conservation efforts. These
activities empower divers to make a tangible difference, turning each dive into an act of
conservation.

One of the newer additions to the Galapagos diving scene, the Galaxy Diver II, is
specifically tailored for divers. Its design prioritises comfort, safety, and environmental
responsibility. The vessel boasts modern amenities, spacious dive decks, and the latest
navigational technology, ensuring that every dive is not only memorable but also has
minimal environmental impact.

A highlight of this expedition is the opportunity to dive at Wolf and Darwin islands,
renowned for their vibrant, untouched marine ecosystems and as a haven for large
pelagic species. These islands are famous for their schools of hammerhead sharks,
whale sharks, and manta rays, offering spectacular diving that attracts enthusiasts from
around the globe.

Shark Guardian have developed this trip to ensure a hassle-free experience. The
expedition package also includes internal flights from Quito, Ecuador, to the Galapagos,
plus accommodation in Quito before and after the trip. This allows divers to relax and
enjoy the experience without worrying about logistics.

Participants will join a diverse group of passionate divers and conservationists. This trip
offers a unique opportunity to network with like-minded individuals who are eager to
learn about and contribute to marine conservation. It’s a chance to share experiences,
knowledge, and a commitment to protecting the marine world.

sharks

Shark Guardian is offering an early bird price available until May 31st 2024. This special
rate provides a fantastic opportunity to secure a spot on this exclusive expedition at a
reduced cost. Availability is limited, so interested divers are encouraged to act quickly
to ensure they don’t miss out. All the details can be found on their WeTravel page, where
bookings can be made easily and payment instalments are available.

Expedition Galapagos, aboard the Galaxy Diver II offers more than just a diving
holiday—it is an investment in both personal and planetary well-being. By participating,
divers not only witness the majesty of one of the world’s premier diving locales but also
contribute to its preservation for future generations.

Find out more about Shark Guardian at www.sharkguardian.org.

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