Monday, November 08, 2004


Treasure turns up on hurricane-battered Florida beaches

Chicago Sun-Times
By Linda Jump

WABASSO BEACH, Fla. -- Greg Bounds rode out Hurricane Jeanne in a truck at a friend's beachside home, just to be first on the sand to search for treasure.

It paid off for the Sebastian, Fla., subcontractor, who found five gold coins dating from 1696 to 1714 near Wabasso Beach.

''I got up really, really early and hunted like hell,'' Bounds said. ''Hurricanes take the sand down to the level where the coins are.''

While beach owners evacuated or cursed their home's destruction, professional and amateur treasure hunters ignored wind and rain for the bounty of the famed 1715 Spanish fleet. Many believe the 10 to 12 galleons carried thousands of jewels and precious coins when they sank during a hurricane off the Treasure Coast. Much has never been recovered.

Dozens of gold coins found
The efforts of dozens of beachcombers during and after the hurricanes reportedly have produced dozens of gold coins, hundreds of silver coins and jewelry that includes diamond and emerald rings and gold chains. It's difficult to know for sure how much they've found because many hoard the treasure to keep government from getting its share.

Experts think shipwreck survivors may have stashed some of the loot in the dunes and salvagers may have buried treasure to keep it from pirates.

''If we could take a bulldozer to those sites now, we could fill our pockets with coins and jewelry,'' said John Brandon of Fort Pierce, Fla., a treasure hunter since age 13. ''But we can't do that.''

State and federal laws prohibit digging in dunes.

In January 1961, after Hurricane Donna, treasure hunter Kip Wagner and his crew recovered more than 2,000 coins behind the McLarty Museum at Sebastian.

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