KEY WEST, Florida - Divers in the Florida Keys have recovered a large emerald ring and two silver spoons believed to come from Nuestra Senora de Atocha, a shipwrecked Spanish galleon that has already yielded one of the greatest treasures ever recovered from the sea.
Employees of Mel Fisher's Treasure, the salvage company that has worked the shipwreck site since 1969, believe the latest haul signals they are close to finding the sterncastle, a key missing portion of the ship.
"The sterncastle is where the clergy and elite were with their personal items," said Sean Fisher, spokesman for the family business and grandson of its late founder, Mel Fisher.
The Atocha was headed back to Spain with a load of gold and silver from the New World when it sank and broke up in a hurricane not far from Key West in September 1622.
After a 16-year-search, Mel Fisher and his crew found the "mother lode" of the shipwreck in September 1985. They hauled up more than 40 tonnes of gold and silver, including more than 100,000 Spanish silver coins known as "Pieces of Eight," along with Colombian emeralds and other artifacts. The company estimated its worth at nearly $500 million.
Since then, Sean Fisher said the crew has made many other discoveries within a ten-mile (16-km) spread of the original site, and in a straight line.