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First Expedition of the 2019 Season

The new year is already bringing new adventures for the MRR team. On January 3, 2019, the Sea Reaper’s Dan Porter, Captain Josh Fisher-Abt, Levin Shavers, Rob Hill, Dale Gannon and the newest member of the MRR crew, Tilly Lowe, left the dock at Three D Boat Yard and headed to Motivation Inc.’s permitted wreck site of the famed Santa Margarita.

It may be a new season but the MRR team is going after the missing section of the Margarita like the hunt never stopped. With focus in our eyes and enthusiasm in our hearts, we know what our target is on this site and we’re determined to locate it. Twenty-three missing chests of coins remain to be found and locating this target would be life changing for all involved.

An olive jar handle and piece of hand-painted majolica recovered from the Santa Margarita.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve continued to locate artifacts along a developing trail of material that is parallel to the main scatter of known wreckage discovered by Mel Fisher’s divers in 1980. While finding items such as ballast, olive jar sherds, ship’s fittings, cooking pots, an iron key, sword handles, lead sheathing and more, in December 2018 we recovered the first piece of treasure on this developing trail—a silver coin. The unique thing about this recovery is that it was found 1,100 feet to the east of the main scatter of wreckage, following the same directional line of the silver coin scatter discovered in 1980.

Dedicated MRR divers Levin Shavers and Rob Hill wait on the dive ladder during prop wash excavation.

On this trip, the team excavated an area of this eastern trail on first day of recovery. The day started and ended with light recovery, including one olive jar sherd and one barrel hoop fragment. Although minimal material was recovered, each shipwreck artifact is significant and when the locational data is plotted in our GIS software, it adds information to the story of what happened 400 years ago in the middle of a raging hurricane. While working on the east side of the site, Dan Porter strategized to test the boundaries of the eastern scatter and set the Sea Reaper’s prop wash excavation tubes over a group of magnetometer anomies even farther to the east, though no recoveries were made.

Dale Gannon recovers an olive jar handle.

After staying at anchor for a day due to bad weather conditions, the team resumed work early on the following day of excavation. The Sea Reaper worked to the northeast and made some very nice recoveries of ship’s fittings, barrel hoop fragments and stone ware. One piece of stoneware recovered is the handle of an olive jar container. Olive jars were the container of choice used for transporting various goods in the earlier colonial days when the sinking of the Margarita took place.

Tilly Lowe recovers an iron spike.

On the third day of excavation, the team moved to the west of the area known as the main pile of the wreck site. Excavation of this area has not been completed in modern salvage. Over the past couple of years, MRR has made numerous recoveries in this area, including silver coins, though recovery was light this time.

An assortment of artifacts including olive jar necks, majolica, an iron spike and olive jar sherds.

The last day of the trip was the most successful. The Sea Reaper relocated to an area that had been excavated years ago and made many recoveries, including 116 olive jar sherds, ship’s spikes, a majolica bowl bottom and other assorted artifacts. While continuing exploration in new areas both east and west of the known Santa Margarita site, the MRR team will also return to this exciting area to make sure there are no more significant cultural remains. One exciting fact about this area is that it is only yards from the location of the 2008 gold chalice discovery.

Captain Josh and the Sea Reaper team are excited to return to the Santa Margarita as soon as the weather breaks again. The year is off to a great start!

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