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Divers retrieve Spanish galleons' treasure

world Updated: Jun 16, 2007 16:32 IST

A thousand historical artifacts, gold chains, bars and rings worth an estimated $1 million have been salvaged from the wreckage of a Spanish galleon that sank almost 400 years ago off the Florida coast.

The salvaged treasure was from the Spanish galleon Santa Margarita that sank in a September 1622 hurricane as it attempted to return to Spain, news agency EFE reported on Friday.

The Spanish galleon belonged to the fleet of the flagship Our Lady of Atocha, which was also shipwrecked off the Florida coast carrying a treasure worth $400 million that was discovered by the late Mel Fisher in 1985.

The captain of the salvage boat Blue Water Rose, Greg Bounds, said they also found an oval box at the undersea site that had him and his shipmates "going crazy" wondering about its contents.

"We've opened boxes like that before and found a $10 million emerald brooch and a 100 feet of gold chain all crammed in there," Sean Fisher, Mel's grandson, said.

When the content of the mysterious box was revealed on Friday in the conservation lab at Mel Fisher's Treasures in Key West, it turned out to contain over a thousand pearls.

In all, the find discovered just six meters underwater is the most valuable from the Santa Margarita in 27 years, Fisher said.

Among the pieces salvaged were eight gold chains, 11 ornate objects, seven gold rings and a gold bar as well as silver coins.

This latest find comes in the midst of a joint five-year project organised by Mel Fisher Treasures, which owns the rights to the sunken ship, and the subcontractor Blue Water Ventures Key West.

Except for one of the golden chains, the entire treasure was found in an area some 12 meters in diameter and 1.5 km from where Mel Fisher first came upon the wreck of the Santa Margarita.