Although one of the most recent deep sea treasure discoveries could yield a fortune estimated at $18 million, sunken ships continue to captivate for more than the wealth they often contain. The wrecks also give hints from life many decades or, in some cases, many centuries ago. Click through to discover the stories behind some of these underwater finds.
|Sir Francis Drake's Grave Found?|
A team of treasure hunters from around the world -- including Pat Croce, the former president of the Philadelphia 76ers -- say they have found two ships from Sir Francis Drake's fleet on the seabed off the coast of Panama. The 195-ton Elizabeth and 50-ton Delight were scuttled shortly after the naval hero died from dysentery in 1596. It is believed Drake, dressed in full armor, was buried nearby in a lead casket.
|$18 Million Treasure Found in North Atlantic|
In 1917, a German torpedo sank the British steam ship Mantola off of the coast of Ireland, sending the ship and its reported 20 tons of silver to the bottom of the ocean about a mile underneath the water. Experts are estimating that today the cargo could be worth about $18 million. Oddyssey Marine Exploration, based in Tampa, Fla., identified the ship last month using a tethered robot. They have since been contracted by the British Department for Transport to return the silver to shore.
|$240 million Discovery in British Cargo Ship|
An estimated $240 million treasure found last spring by an American underwater archaeology and salvaging firm is the latest deep sea discovery. Acting under a government contract, Odyssey Marine located the buried riches from the Gairsoppa, an aging British cargo ship that was sunk by a Nazi U-boat in 1941. The 412-foot steel ship was carrying silver from Calcutta to Liverpool to fund the war effort when it was sunk in the North Atlantic. The company, in partnership with the British government, plans to salvage the fortune this spring.
|HMS Sussex: Battle Over $500 Million Fortune Continues|
Hundreds of thousands of colonial-era Spanish gold and silver coins were discovered on a treasure hunting expedition in 2007. The coins, which were worth an estimated $500 million, were found on the HMS Sussex, an 80-gun English war ship that sank during a 1694 storm. The discovery sparked a three-way fight between the United States, United Kingdom and Spain as to which country was the rightful owner. The recovery of the wreck is on hold pending a resolution.
The Whydah shipwreck was discovered in 1984 by explorer Barry Clifford. The ship, which was used for trading slaves, was overtaken by legendary pirate Samuel "Black Sam" Bellamy. The pirate and his crew sailed from the Caribbean up the East Coast looting and capturing other ships along the way. During a violent storm in 1717, the ship sank near Cape Cod. Since finding the shipwreck, Clifford and his team have recovered nearly 200,000 artifacts, including trunks full of coins, the ship's bell, cannons and various articles of clothing.
|Taj Mahal Sunken Treasure Discovered During Movie Location Scouting|
In 1961, Sir Arthur C. Clarke was scouting an underwater location for a movie off the coast of Sri Lanka when his divers discovered a ship wreck and a fortune of silver rupees on the Great Basses Reef. Three hundred years earlier, the riches were loaded aboard a trade ship in India that was bound for the east. Due to inclement weather, only three masses of coins were able to be recovered. Clarke said he believed there were many more still buried beneath the debris.
|Israeli Lifeguards Find Byzantine Anchor|
Israeli lifeguards recently pulled a 650-pound iron Byzantine anchor out of the Mediterranean Sea. A life guard first spotted the anchor resting in shallow water only 150 feet out from the shore during a swim. Israel's Antiques Authority estimated that the anchor is about 1,700 years old.