Treasure seekers and history buffs can commemorate salvager Mel Fisher’s discovery of the sunken Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha July 13 to 15 in the city he called home.
In July 1985 Fisher and his crew uncovered Atocha treasure and artifacts valued at $450 million after a 16-year search. The galleon sank during a 1622 hurricane in about 55 feet of water 35 miles southwest of Key West. Fisher died in 1998.
Mel Fisher Days highlights include tours of the salvage boat J.B. Magruder that is used to seek more Atocha artifacts, exclusive explorations of the Fishers’ conservation lab, opportunities to hear tales from the crew that found the Atocha riches, a dock party and the chance to win an authentic Atocha treasure coin valued at $1,400.
The schedule for July 13 and 14 features limited-admission behind-the-scenes tours of the private conservation laboratory at Mel Fisher’s Treasures, 200 Greene St. (side entrance), where Atocha artifacts and treasures are conserved and studied.
July 15 features a dock party from 4:30 to 9 p.m. at the Schooner Wharf Bar, 202 William St. in the Key West Historic Seaport, with appearances by members of the crew that discovered the Atocha’s riches in 1985. The 90-foot Magruder is to be berthed behind the bar and open for tours from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Capt. Andy Matroci and other crew members will guide the tours and share tales of treasure finds, explain search techniques and display technology they use to explore the ocean floor.
Other attractions during the dock party include a silent auction featuring more than $15,000 in goods ranging from dinners to authentic treasures. Those attending also can enjoy a live auction, music, contests, raffles, book signings, the announcement of the winner of the Atocha coin and the presentation of the Mel Fisher Lifetime Achievement Award to Ma.
That award will go to Matroci. He worked his way up to first mate on the Mel Fisher salvage vessel Dauntless. On July 20, 1985, he and Greg Wareham were the first divers to see the Atocha mother lode. During his tenure with the Fisher family, Matroci has also captained or co-captained the Dauntless, Magruder, Virgilona and the Swordfish, working on the Atocha and the Margarita wrecks as well as doing some work on the 1715 and 1733 fleets.
Net proceeds from the Fisher festival benefit the Wesley House Family Services Inc.