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Treasure on display

Famous Atocha coins return to museum

January 8, 2014
Lehigh Acres Citizen

A collection of ancient coins and artifacts recovered from a sunken Spanish galleon off the Florida Keys is returning to the Cape Coral Historical Museum for a one-day viewing on Saturday.

The glass-case display, which was viewed by the public in 2010 and 2011 at the museum, consists of 200 or so coins of various sizes and shapes along with ancient scissors, emeralds and other treasures. You can see the artifacts from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the museum, located at 544 Cultural Park Blvd. Admission is $5 per person.

"We want people to know that these coins will be on display," said Cape Coral museum past president and current board member Paul Sanborn. "It's the same weekend as the Arts Festival and gives people something else to see. We're charging admission this year to raise some funds for the museum."

Article Photos

Michael Pistella

Paul Sanborn with one of the smaller Atocha coins to be displayed Saturday at the Cape Coral Historical Museum.

The galleon named Nuestra Senora de Atocha, along with several other treasure ships in the fleet, sank off the Keys during a hurricane on Sept. 6, 1622. It was carrying gold and silver coins and bars from the new world back to Spain when it encountered the storm and wound up at the bottom of the sea. It's location remained a mystery for more than 360 years.

Along came salvage expert Mel Fisher and his Treasure Salvors Inc. which located the Atocha wreckage in 1985 after 16 years of searching the sea floor. One of his former divers, Walter Dahlmann, is expected to be on hand at the museum viewing to answer questions and share stories with visitors.

Long-time Cape Coral resident Lou Tilley, who acquired a large portion of the Atocha treasure for providing powerful tugboats to Fisher's recovery operation, generously donated the items to the Cape Coral Historical Museum that will be on display. Tilley, now deceased, made a similar though much larger donation to the Southwest Florida Historical Museum in Miami.

Sanborn added that 400 to 500 people had attended the previous showings at the museum.

"We will have one of the coins available that people can touch and take their photo with if they bring their own camera," said Sanborn.

An informative video of the actual discovery of the sunken treasure will be shown before and after viewing the display. Visitors also will be taken on a tour of the rest of the museum.



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