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LITTLE-KNOWN SUNKEN TREASURES

 

THE LOST GOLD-FILLED PT BOAT

 

Somewhere off Fort Myers Beach, Florida, lies an $8,000,000 treasure in only 20-30 feet of water.

 

     During the Spanish Civil War an American named Scott was in Spain as a member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade fighting on the Government side against the rebels of General Francisco Franco. During that time Scott was able to do research on shipwrecks in the Archives of the Indies in Seville, Spain.  During his research he came across a wreck location off the Isle of Pines, Cuba, that related to a Spanish Galleon sunk in the 1700s that contained $13,000,000 in treasure in 12 chests. Scott obtained a copy of the map, which he kept.  When the war in Spain ended and the brigade returned to New York in 1939, he was mustered out.

     When World War II erupted he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and during the next four years he formed a group with three other men and made plans that when the war was over, they would pool their money, buy a boat and go to the shipwreck site off the Isle of Pines and recover the treasure.

     After the war ended and they were all discharged, they returned to their homes but kept in touch. Annual meetings were held in which they made plans and finally in 1950 they all quit their jobs and met in Tampa where Scott lived. Each had raised over $10,000 to pool for their treasure hunt.

     They went to Green Cove Springs, Florida, where a Moth Ball fleet was kept in storage.  All being ex-sailors with honorable discharges which gave them certain priorities, they purchased a surplus PT boat and were soon on their way back to Tampa. They gave the vessel a complete overhaul and painted her black over the Navy gray to make her harder to see at night. They also replaced the gas engines with diesels to conserve fuel on their planned trip to Cuba.

     After three months the PT boat was provisioned and they headed out into the Gulf of Mexico and towards Cuba. Three days later they were off the Isle of Pines by noon and anchored over the treasure site by nightfall.

    The next day they were ready to start diving on the site which was in about 30 feet of clear blue water. Three men dove while one stayed topside. With the aid of a metal detector and steel probing rods, they soon found the right location and figured the wreck was buried under 5 to 6 feet of sand.

     Using a powerful jet pump they eventually cleared the area within the wreck site to discover the outline of eight large chests amongst the wreckage and they were able to expose the chests and hoist them onto the deck of the boat. More chests were apparent but the boat could only safely carry the eight.

     As they were preparing to hoist the anchor and head home, a Cuban gunboat appeared and they were instructed to stand by for a search of their vessel.

     Before leaving Tampa they had put the 50-caliber machine gun that came with the vessel in working order as well as a small one-inch cannon in case of just such an emergency. Rather than lose a fortune and perhaps go to jail, one of the men began firing the machine gun at the Cuban patrol boat and soon had it out of commission. Then the P.T. boat and its heavy load of treasure headed for home with open throttles. 

 

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