Treasure-Hunting Family Strikes Gold Off Florida Coast
For the Schmitt family, the pirate's life just might be for them.
This Florida clan unearthed over $300,000 in gold treasures while on a dive off of the coast of Fort Pierce, Fla., over the weekend. The loot consisting of seven gold chains, three gold coins, and a gold ring was unearthed just 150 yards offshore.
"I cried like a baby," describes Hillary Schmitt, 20, after her brother, Eric, showed her and the rest of the family the handful of gold on the boat. "His pocket was hanging (with gold) about down to the ground… It was an intense moment. We were all just screaming and crying."
Even for the Schmitt's, who hunt treasures professionally through their company Booty Salvage, this discovery was enough to send them reeling. Their biggest discovery in the past was a Spanish silver plate priced at $30,000 to $40,000. "It's a feeling of excitement, joy, feeling, blessed, shocked," gushes Schmitt. "I just kept saying, 'there's gold everywhere!'"
It is believed that the goods came from the wreckage of a hurricane in 1715 that sunk 11 Spanish ships. Queens Jewels, the company that owns the rights to dive in the area, boasts findings of statues, coins, and other historic items.
"Almost on a daily basis we find shipwreck artifacts, musket balls, pottery," explained co-founder Brent Brisben. "It's truly amazing." Last month 51 gold coins worth $250,000 were discovered.
Based off of the ships' manifests, Brisben estimates that only $175 million of the $600 million worth of treasures have been found. He has as many as 15 different subcontractors, including Booty Salvage, pining to strike gold during the summer months.
To discover artifacts, the Schmitt's use machines called Mailboxes, which hang off the back of their boat and create airjets to dig large holes in the sea floor. The Schmitts and divers hired by the Schmitts descend into these holes to pan for gold. The latest booty was15 feet below the sea floor.
The Schmitt's loot will be split between their company and Queens Jewels, with 20 percent donated to the state of Florida. "It was a hobby but now it seems like a lifestyle," Schmitt beams. "We are pirates. It's what we do."
Click to view a slideshow of the Schmitt's loot.