JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A team of explorers from Jacksonville made an amazing discovery off the coast of North Carolina when they came across one of the most famous shipwrecks in American history: the luxury steamship the Pulaski.
It sank on a trip from Savannah, Georgia, to Baltimore in 1838, and its location was a mystery until now.
The two companies behind the operation, Endurance Exploration Group and Blue Water Ventures International, are getting international attention for the find.
At least 40 miles off the coast of North Carolina, more than 100 feet under the water, the explorers discovered the treasure.
"We have an American quarter with the Liberty head facing to the left and the date 1818 underneath," BWVI marine archaeologist Jim Sinclair said.
The divers uncovered what’s believed to be what remains of the long-lost Pulaski, a luxury steamship that exploded in 1838 on its way to Baltimore, killing 128 people, including some of the wealthiest families in America.
Now, 180 years later, Jacksonville-based Blue Water Ventures International is bringing it to the surface.
"We hope that's what we're trying to do," Keith Webb, CEO of BWVI, said when asked if his company is helping to rewrite history books. "There's just so much to learn about this whole time period."
"It's very exciting," said Mark L'Hommedieu, partner of BWVI. "It's definitely an adrenaline rush.You're down there. You know there's treasure in the area. You're not sure if you're going to find anything, but when you do, it's a very exciting situation.
Endurance Exploration Group used research and sonar to shipwreck. So far, between $100,000 and $200,000 worth of early American coins have been found. But the treasure hunters believe there’s $20 million to $25 million worth still under the sand.
"There's a lot down there," L'Hommedieu said. "We haven't even scratched the surface."
This isn't the first time this team has discovered treasure. Over the years they have found several Spanish ships with tens of millions of dollars worth of gold, silver and other artifacts.
Monday, they opened their vault to show News4Jax discoveries from old Spanish ships off the coast of Florida and in the Caribbean.
With $11 million worth of pearls, gold, silver and iron already discovered, and as they continue to search for more hidden treasure, they said they know the future is bright.
"There's hundreds of wrecks all across the coast of the United States, and even hundreds more down by the Caribbean -- maybe even thousands," L'Hommedieu said. "It's been said that there's potentially more good at the bottom of the ocean than in circulation today."
Treasure from the latest find is being restored and preserved right now, and in this case, it’s finders keepers.
The dive team will continue to work the Pulaski shipwreck for another few seasons.
The company is also working on other top-secret projects closer to home -- some off the coast of Jacksonville.
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