Key West has many unique features. There are few other places on earth where you can go down to the beach in the morning and reasonably expect to trip across treasure from Spanish galleon shipwrecks.
Equally you could, as I have, sashay into a local pawn shop and you’ll be offered slabs of emeralds, supposedly from the Atocha ship. “That’s worth sixty-thousand dollars,” the pawn shop owner said, fingering a green rock, “But you can have it for thirty grand.”
But then I heard a story, and it all began with a man walking into a bar. Key West was settled by pirates and wreckers and naturally, the wet town still attracts those with adventure in their blood. Just like Steve, Tennessee native and contractor by day and treasure hunter the balance of his time.
Time spent mostly under water in the Gulf of Mexico amongst the rotting wrecks and the dolphins and the sharks, with his trusty map in hand. A map he bought off a hungry, nervy character, the man who walked into the bar. This codger had his own reasons, which included a long standing loathing of all things Mel Fisher, and was glad to exchange his hand-drawn map for five hundred bucks today and a promise of more if booty was ever located. After that Steve was on his own, with his map.
And emeralds were located, exactly where the X on the map indicated, in staggering quantities. Almost immediately this find was disputed and discredited by the Mel Fisher conglomerate, everything from the emeralds were fakes to the fact they really all belonged to the Fishers.
Mel Fisher, the man who located the Atocha, has an empire which continues to dominate in the imaginations of believers. Detractors, however, will tell you Mel Fisher has sold twice the treasure he ever discovered. Worse still, allegedly, Mel manufactured some of those antique coins. Another detail Steve will tell you is he has seen the manifesto from the Atocha, a document in the safe keeping of the Smithsonian, and zero emeralds were transported on the Atocha.
Any day now Steve’s three year old court case should wrap up, and it is looking favorable to him, which would just about change his life and make him filthy rich. “I’ll give it all away,” he says, “After I get a new truck. Otherwise, I’m not materialistic at all. But I do love finding things.”
It’s all about things, Baby! It’s all about collecting and hoarding. Speaking of hoarding I got the last of my things out of storage. Each trip I’d peer into other peoples cages and invent stories to go with the objects. One box in particular caught my attention, marked ‘Maria’s Winter Clothes’ and thickly coated with dust. Sweating as I humped my boxes, I was thinking how Maria was spending a fortune storing her winter clothes. I remarked on this when I went to check out. The man behind the desk, interrupted from some guitar playing, said, “Maria is probably dead.”