MRR concluded its 1715 Queens Jewels expedition at the end of August with a four-day gold streak, recovering 16 gold coins on the Douglas Beach site, south of Ft. Pierce Inlet. These recoveries, combined with 1 other gold coin and 17 silver coins recovered, made the 16-day 2017 season a success. There were many firsts and a lot of excitement for crew members and MRR investors as well. We are already looking forward to taking the Seatrepid to the 1715 sites next season.
September came in like a lion. We had plans to move the Sea Reaper up the Eastern seaboard to conduct operations on a shipwreck project that has a high potential for major recoveries. Sometimes, as best laid plans might go, it did not work out as planned. There was a storm brewing in the tropics, which we thought we would have to watch and let go by at first, hopefully to the North, and then proceed to our target after the seas calmed. As we continued monitoring the storm, she turned into Hurricane Irma—one of the most powerful hurricanes on record—and at that time, the forecast was calling for landfall on the East coast of Florida. Still in Ft. Pierce, the Sea Reaper was in a bad place and a decision had to be made, and made fast
MRR divers Theo and Josh hold handfuls of musket balls recovered during the first trip to the Margarita since the Sea Reaper returned to Key West after Hurricane Irma.
We were concerned that if we moved to the North, we could just be running from the storm with its potential path continuing to chase us. The decision was made to run South of the impact zone to Miami and watch the forecast models. By the time we were there, the models kept moving the projected path farther West, and Miami was in the target. At that point, Key West looked good, so we continued there. By the time we got to Key West, Irma was a Category 5, closing in on the Western tip of Cuba. With the knowledge that Irma was going to turn to the North at some point, we topped off the Sea Reaper with fuel and headed for the Northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula.
As we left Key West, we were watching the forecast models tighten and zero in on the lower Florida Keys. We all had a very unsettled feeling and knew that some of our friends’ and families’ lives—maybe even our own—were going to be changed by this monster of a storm named Irma.
We made it to Mexico’s El Cid Marina in Puerto Morelos and sat and waited for the news as Irma approached Key West. Then we lost all communication with the Florida Keys and Key West. All we knew was that the hurricane went into the lower Keys hard. As we watched the news, we knew there was a wobble from the projected path as it was bearing down on Key West. From what we could tell, it appeared that the wobble was maybe 15 to 20 miles. Was it enough to save the devastation and storm surge that would certainly destroy the Seatrepid, which Captain Dan Porter and the MRR crew have worked so hard on for the last several months? Did that even matter anymore? The whole island could have been leveled for all we knew. The news was certainly telling us that 90% of the buildings were damaged in Key West.
It was five very emotional days before we saw the devastation that occurred. At first, there was a feeling of personal relief when we learned that Three D Boat Yard and our vessel, Seatrepid, had survived, and that for the most part Key West was spared by the last-minute wobble of Irma. It was two more days before we saw the true impact of the hurricane. There are no words to reflect what we saw or the emotions we felt while observing the aftermath of the storm. Our heartfelt blessings and condolences go out to our friends and family, as well as all the people in the Keys that were affected by the terrible storm Irma.
The Sea Reaper has now returned to Key West, and is continuing to work under contract with Motivation, Inc. Since returning, the MRR crew is already working toward our quest to recover the missing section of the Santa Margarita. It was a great feeling to be back on the Margarita site after leaving in mid-July to work on the 1715 fleet wreck sites. We started work along the Eastern side of the main wreck scatter in an area that had no previous excavation. Material was light for the most part.
Lead musket balls recovered from the Santa Margarita.
On the second day, Josh and the most recent addition to the MRR team, Theo Nielson, began the day on the dive ladder. On the very first excavation, Theo recovered a lead musket ball, which was the first of 49 recovered throughout the day. We always get excited when we start finding musket balls in a new area because more often than not, divers tend to find a gold artifact in the vicinity.
The next day, Levin Shavers and Rob Hill were in the water and the musket balls continued coming up. Very little other material was being recovered, aside from the occasional olive jar sherd or encrusted object. The following day, Captain Dan Porter decided to move to an area along the main trail that had light excavation. There was a tropical low-pressure system building over Cuba and moving our way, and this is when the rain began. The sea conditions remained stable, so we continued working in the rain. As hot as this summer has been, we were not complaining.
Newest MRR diver, Theo Nielson, and veteran diver Josh Fisher Abt
making recoveries on the Margarita site.
From there, we concentrated on the Western section of the site, finding lite material including lead sheathing, olive jar sherds and ballast. Then, on the last excavation of the day, Rob Hill surfaced with a silver coin and an encrusted object.
We then moved to the north and continued working on the West side of the trail, where we recovered light material, but material none the less. This does not sound like much, but each recovery contributes to the big puzzle that we are putting together one piece at a time.