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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

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Euro-Divers opens to guests at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives

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In celebration of Euro-Divers’ 50 Years of Diving with Friends in the Maldives, the team have opened a new PADI 5 Star Dive Center at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives.

Alila Kothaifaru Maldives retreat lies at the northern edge of the Maldives in the tranquil Raa Atoll, reached via a panoramic 45-minute seaplane voyage from Male. The island has 80 all-pool-villas, 36 of which are over water with a private pool for your enjoyment and 44 beachfront villas designed seamlessly to immerse guests in the natural surroundings. In support of sustainable tourism, Alila hotels adopt Earth Check operating standards, integrating their environments’ natural, physical, and cultural elements.

Raa Atoll is well-known for the excellent scuba diving it offers. The underwater landscape of Raa Atoll is characterized by a high number of thilas scattered inside the lagoons. These underwater coral mountains are magnets for marine life including huge schools of tropical reef fish, a generous splash of colour, iconic bucket-list-must-see marine creatures including sharks, mantas (appearing during the entire year), turtles, and uncrowded dive sites—a perfect diver’s heaven for beginners and experienced divers. We offer a full range of PADI courses for different levels. From November till March, the Manta cleaning station is located 15 minutes away by boat.

The team from Alila Kothaifaru Maldives look forward to welcoming you soon.

Find out more at: www.euro-divers.com/alila-kothaifaru-maldives

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Marine Life & Conservation

Blue Marine Foundation launches new partnership with Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance

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Ocean charity makes initial grant of $90,000 to marine parks on six Dutch Caribbean islands. Award will fund projects including coral protection, and training youth marine rangers.

Ocean conservation charity Blue Marine Foundation has announced it is awarding $90,000 in funding to support marine conservation in the Dutch Caribbean. A range of projects run by protected area management organisations on six islands will each receive a grant of $15,000. The funding is the first step in a longer-term partnership to support the islands and help secure sustainable financing through the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) Trust fund.

To improve ocean governance, Blue Marine uses a combination of top-down intervention and bottom-up project delivery to help local communities at the front line of conservation. It will work together with the DCNA to help marine-park organisations protect the unique and threatened biodiversity of the Dutch Caribbean.

The new partnership is an important development in the successful management of marine conservation parks in the Dutch Caribbean. The UK-based charity has established a small-grants fund to provide rapid access to support for critical conservation projects run by marine parks.

The individual projects and their local partners are:

Unique ecosystems on the islands are vulnerable to threats such as feral livestock causing sedimentation on reefs, and invasive species, including lionfish and coral diseases. They are also at risk from overfishing, climate change, coastal development, erosion and the build-up of harmful algae caused by waste water.

The islands of the Dutch Caribbean are also home to important “blue carbon” habitats – ocean ecosystems such as seagrasses, mangroves and other marine plants that suck up and lock away carbon from the earth’s atmosphere. Seagrass is so efficient at this it can capture and store carbon dioxide up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests.  The management and protection of these blue carbon habitats is vital in the fight against climate change.

Current marine conservation measures in the islands include a 25,390 square km mammal and shark sanctuary- Yarari sanctuary- across the Exclusive Economic Zone of Bonaire, Saba and St Eustatius. All six islands have inshore Marine Protected Areas ranging in size from 10 to 60 sq km.

Blue Marine’s Senior Project Manager Jude Brown commented: “Having recently visited two of the islands, I witnessed first-hand how special this region is. Diving the waters off Saba I saw huge Tarpon swimming amongst shoals of blue tang, and hawksbill turtles feeding on the seagrass beds. I also witnessed the challenges these islands are facing from coral disease to issues with coastal development. It is an exciting opportunity to work in the Dutch Caribbean, bringing expertise and funding from Blue Marine to join with the wealth of knowledge already on the islands, to work together to protect the important marine life arounds these islands.”

Tadzio Bervoets, Director of the DNCA commented: “The Dutch Caribbean consists of the Windward Islands of St. Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius and the Leeward Islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. The nature of the Dutch Caribbean contains the richest biodiversity in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The diverse ecosystems are a magnet for tourism and at the same time the most important source of income for residents of the Dutch Caribbean. Nature on the islands is unique and important but it is also fragile. The coming week we will be in The Netherlands to present a Climate Action Plan for the Dutch Caribbean to emphasize the urgent need for a climate smart future for our islands.”


Photo: Coral reefs in the Dutch Caribbean- Photo credit: Naturepics: Y.+T. Kühnast- all rights reserved

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A luxurious dive resort in the heart of Lembeh Strait. Enjoy refined services while exploring the rich waters of Indonesia.

The resort is nestled around an ocean front deck and swimming-pool (with pool-bar) which is the perfect place to enjoy a sundowner cocktail at the end of a busy day of critter-diving.

All accommodation is full board and includes three sumptuous meals a day. Breakfast and lunch are buffet meals and in the evening dining is a la carte.

Book and stay before the end of June and benefit from no single supplements in all room types!

Booking deadline: Subject to availability – book and stay before end of June 2022

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk.

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