This is a story that appeared in the April 1993 issue of Lost Treasure about Treasure found by a man named Stepphen Shouppe. He is founder and President of the Galleon Explorers Club.
For years the strand of beach twelve miles south of Ft. Pierce inlet had been hunted by a pair of determined treasure seekers armed with hopped up, home brooded metal detectors, both of which had turned up many unique and very old finds. Understandably so, a tight lip was the rule on the location of the site. A well-kept secret guarded the finds from all but the two, who regularly came away with rare and valuable gold and emerald rings, gold lockets, golden earrings, beautiful porcelain shards and silver pieces of eight dating no later than 1620.
The wreck site appeared to be older than the Atocha which sank in 1622 of Key West, Fl, and was discovered by Mel Fisher in 1985. As these were made, rumors began to drift about in the treasure hunting community along the treasure coast of some secret site that was yielding up great and wonderful treasure finds. I, myself, at the time was actively involved in the salvage of a circa 1715 wreck which I had found the year before six miles south of Sebastion Inlet. The wreck turned out to be a small patachi privateer of approximately 100tons carrying fourteen six-pound iron guns. It was during this salvage operation by Galleon Research Inc., my salvage company, that I met Steve, unknown to me at the time as one of the two who knew of the 1600 treasure beach site. After awile, a strong bond was established between us.
One day I invited Steve out on the salvage site of the privateer to view the operations. From the deck of the Tequesta, my forty-foot research and salvage vessel anchored over the site, we could see the divers on the bottom as their expended air bubbles charged to the surface, scattering schools of pogie fish, causing them to flash silver bellies in the bright sunlight. Eventually, Steve opened the subject of his recent finds on the beach. In our conversation I learned from Steve, much to his dismay, that the other person who knew of the 1600 site was negotiating with a salvage company to sell the location of the wreck. As Steve stressed that there was no agreement, verbal or written, between the two of them, I asked him if he would be interested in a contract giving him a percentage of the finds, if any, from the wreck site offshore. He agreed and a deal was made and signed by Steve and myself. The next rough weather day when we could not go to sea, we headed for the Emerald beach site as Steve affectionately named the productive strand of sand which was a half mile or so long.
Walking slowly with our detectors, Steve pointed out each spot where some item of importance was found, which he had marked by tying ribbons to the trees along the bluff line. One Day, while Steve was working for his father, two of my crew members charged up the detectors and headed to the Emerald Beach site. With great expectations, we set out heading south following the two to three foot cut along the bluff. Working our way slowly trying to stay far enough apart so our detectors wouldn't attract each other, we would leap frog around when the one in front was busy digging a signal. This left spaces in our work pattern that we would miss.
After a mile or so of swinging a 15" loop one tends to get a little tired, so we stopped for a rest under some trees criticallt hanging over the bluff with roots exposed. While resting, we talked of the possibilities of what lay just offshore in the frothing, restless sea. Our mind's were attuned to one thing and one thing alone, "Treasure!" On our feet again we head-ed back north towards our entry point. Our only significant finds were some spikes, ship fillings and small ballast stones, not much value in dollars, but extremely exciting to us, reconfirming the fact of a wreck offshore.
As we made our way now with quickened steps, Richard, one of my crew members had turned his detector off and carried it across his shoulder. Davy, the other crew member, was bringing up the rear, carrying a full length shovel the same way. I had moved up the bluff, poking my 15" coil under the tangled roots of undermined trees that had fallen in storms. The detector I used was a deep-seeking powerful unit from Europe called an Aquapulse 1a Deepscan, the best I had run across in my twenty-five years of treasure hunting. So powerful that after 99 beer cans, you just don't feel like digging two to tree feet for another one. Jamming the loop under some overhanging tree roots, I caught a faint signal. I could hardly pick it up. At first I thought it must be a small piece of foil(this detector does not discriminate). Taking my foot andscraping away 8"-10" of the soft sand from the surface, I checked the spot again, this time more carefully-the signal was stronger. I motioned for Davy to come with the shovel, "Probably just another beer can,"I said as he started to dig.
Every foot or so I would check the hole and the tone increased with each try. Nearly four feet down and the signal was blasting my earphones off. By now we had dug below the strata where all the trash had been coming from. Richard and a beach walker had joind us to see what all the digging was about, and to tell you the truth, I was getting very interested myself. But I knew better than to get my hopes up, for we had dug spikes and keel pins from this depth, but not this far up the beach. Then the shovel struck metal, it would have to be a large target to have picked it up at this depth. The sand was caving in as fast as we could throw it out. I took the shovel and cleared away as much as I could without caving it more in. Then I told Davy, "be ready to get a hand on it, when and if I can expose it enough!"
I learned years ago not to jam and chop on a target with the shovel, for once, I cut a perfect Spanish bronze crucifix in half by digging to energeticlly. So ever so carefully, I cleared the sand in the bottom of the hole, holding my breath each time a shovel full would come to the surface and was discarded. Davy was standing ready as close as he dared to the edge of the hole when I heard the shovel scrape metal again. We couldn't see the target, but knew it was only inches away, when the entire side of the hole began to give way. I yelled for Davy to "dive for it" as I pulled the shovel it's entire length from the 5' hole and Davy went inhead first. All we could see was his two legs and the back side of his pink "baggies." He was buried alive, up side down, from the waist up. Richard and I frantically each pulled on a leg as a beach walker stood with gapping mouth, wondering what the heck was going to happen next.
It was as though Davy were anchored to the earth. It seemed the more he wiggled, the tighter the sand got around him. What Richard and I didn't know was that Davy, in his determination, had latched on to the target and would not let it go. But slowly we began to gain on the battle. The beach walker was nervously looking all around as though to callfor help. But this is a desolete, remote stretch of sand and rarely is used in winter months, and there was no one in sight. Finally, Davy, desperately needing some relief, broke the surface with a shout, and in his right hand was the most beautiful piace of 16th century history one could ever imagine-a fourteen inch gold and bronze signal cannon.
We all started jumping and dancing, shouting and singing, even the beach walker joined in our jubilation, by now realizing the signifigance of our great find. Needless to say, there was celebration and congradulating the rest of the day. Currently, the cannon is being replicated by a limited edition of only 1,000 pieces in bronze, silver and gold. What a way to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the discovery of America by Columbus, a collector's dream come true. This Circa 1500's signal gun was used to communicate with other ships in the fleet or for announcing arrivals in foriegn ports. Nomally a very functional part of a ship, but due to the softness of the metal, our gun has the touch hole blown out.
Upon closer inspection, it is apparent the gun was used as a tool in place of a hammer, probly to drive spikes, we surmise, to erect temporary shelter for the survivors of the shipwreck, using the ship's timbers to fashion crude forts to shield themselves against the elements, and savage Indians who frequented these coasts in that day. Having no tools, one would use what was at hand-with the cannon powder all wet or lost and the gun useless as a weapon, it would naturally serve as a club or hammer, eventually to be lost for centuries in the golden sands on the site of a forgotton lost Galleon. Because we believe this ship was on it's way back to Spain, we suspect this to be just another way of smuggling devised by the clever men of the day to beat the King out of his Royal fifth, a tax imposed on all wealth brought back from the rich Colonies of the new World
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