Mel Fisher was a chicken farmer from Indiana who yearned for the sea. After graduating from Purdue University he moved to California and opened that state's first dive shop. Eventually he'd move to Florida and begin a decades long quest to find treasure he was convinced lay at the bottom of the Caribbean.
The primary target of his quest was the legendary wreck of the Atocha that had eluded all who had attempted to locate her. For more than 16 years Fisher and his partners (whose motto was "Today's the day") scoured the sea bed in search of her with no more luck than any of their predecessors. That is, until July 20, 1985 when one of Fisher's son radioed the news to him on shore that they had finally located the Atocha and her motherlode of treasure. Over time Fisher's crew would haul to the surface treasure worth nearly half a billion dollars but he would have to wait even longer for his payday since the US Government promptly stepped in and claimed ownership of the Atocha and its contents.
After an 8 year legal battle the US Supreme Court recognized Fisher's claim to the treasure (or more precisely to 80% of the treasure with the remaining 20% ordered to be turned over to the State of Florida for public display) and Fisher was able to spend the last 5 years of his life enjoying the fruits of his labors.
|Left: A young Mel Fisher and his wife Dolores. Right: Treasure from the Atocha.|