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  When we surfaced, the officer in a marine patrol uniform waved, friendly enough for us to feel we hadn't done anything wrong. "Finding anything?" "Just bronze spikes and a few unwelcome sea urchins," I replied. "The guys down on Little Conch Reef are finding a few silver coins. Thought you'd like to know." I nodded, "Thanks, we appreciate that." Before he disappeared northward we had our anchor up and were full throttling it the 3/4 mile or so south to where three boats lay anchored a few yards apart. In one of the 18-foot outboards a diver was just hauling himself in over the stern. We dropped anchor about 100 feet away and swam over to introduce myself.


 Bronze navigational dividers recovered from the Winchester.
Photo Credit: E. Richards

Craig Hamilton was a slightly but muscular built diver, about my age, who had an easy smile and great twinkle in his eyes. "Come on board and have a cup of coffee." I shook hands and waved an arm in the direction of Big Splash, snorkeling over the edge of the reef. "That's Dr. Harry Wiseman from the University of Miami." I explained the reason we were there. "Marine Patrol said you were finding a few silver coins." Craig shook his head, "I'll have to learn to keep my mouth shut. When you say something to the Marine Patrol it's like advertising in the newspapers." I found out later that he really didn't mind newcomers if they were serious salvagers, but "Weekenders...uugghh!" Up until that time Harry and I were...uugghh weekenders!
  He pulled a Tupperware container out of the boat box and opened the lid. In it were several small blackened shapes. "We're picking up a few cob coins." I didn't know a cob coin from a corn cob, but I wasn't about to let Craig know it. Gesturing down at the huge ballast pile directly below his boat I asked, "What wreck is this?" "It's the El Infante, one of the Spanish 1733 ships. Not much on her, pretty well salvaged by the Spanish, but it's a fun dive and not too deep."


 Tom Gurr and artifacts recovered from the San Jose.

  We chatted awhile, and he suggested that if I were real serious about salvaging treasure, I should drop by his house and he would show me some of the things they were bringing up. As it turned out we were neighbors in South Miami. I thanked him and slid over the side to take my first look at the wreck site that some day would become the most visited shipwreck in the Florida Keys. I was not disappointed.

 

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