1622: A Spanish fleet sailed from Havana, Cuba bound for Spain laden with riches for the King. While in the Florida Strait a hurricane ravaged the little ships. The 550 ton galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha was one of the unlucky ships. She was driven on to a reef and was sunk. Five of the two hundred and sixty were rescued the rest were lost to the sea. The ship was lost as well, and it would take over three and a half centuries to find her. In the early 1970's it was learned through Spanish salvage records that she went down in the Marqueas Keys rather than Matecumbe Key as thought.
Salvage operations in 1973 located some gold chains and coins and in 1975 several cannon were recovered. Because of the placement of the items it is thought that the ship broke in half in the storm and the two sections may have drifted some distance apart, dumping treasure on a wide area of the ocean floor. A major portion of the ship was located in 1985 in about 60 feet of water by Mel Fisher. The salvage operation of the Spanish ships would eventually yield $60,000,000 in artifacts. It was Mel's lifelong obsession to find the ships but, it would cost him dearly. Not to mention the financial difficulties or the court battles although these were significant, it cost him his Son's life. While over the wreck site his son Dirk, his sons wife and a third man drowned after their dive boat capsized in a storm. Mel Fisher died in Dec. 1998.