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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Divers Make Bootylicious Discovery Off Florida

Aired June 3, 2003 - 20:43   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right.
Two divers now know of at least half a million reasons to go diving along Florida's so-called Treasure Coast. John Wilson and Clyde Kuntz pulled up a jewelry box from the wreck of a Spanish galleon. Now the ship went down in 1715, and it turns out it was only in about 12 to 15 foot of water.

What did they find? Well, you're seeing some of the pictures right there.

John Wilson joins us now, along with Taffi Fisher, daughter of renowned treasure hunter Mel Fisher and director of the Mel Fisher Treasure Museum.

I appreciate you joining us both -- both of you.

Captain John, let me start off with you. How did you stumble upon this amazing treasure?

JOHN WILSON, TREASURE HUNTER: Well, my partner and I, Clyde, we were out diving on Sunday, and it was the first dive of the year for us, and we were just roaming the bottom of the wreck site with our metal detectors, and got some nice hits, found a couple of fishing sinkers, and we got another hit, and paddled the sand away with our hands. We did some hand fanning...

COOPER: Actually, if you could -- if you could -- I'm sorry -- could you raise it up for us -- because we got this -- this chryon on the bottom of the screen.

WILSON: Sure. I'm sorry.

COOPER: There. Yes, it's just amazing.

WILSON: Yes.

COOPER: What are we looking at, Taffi? Tell us a little bit.

TAFFI FISHER, DIRECTOR, MEL FISHER TREASURE MUSEUM: This is a gold box, a jewelry box. When they found it, it was closed and encrusted shut with rocks surrounding it. And when they brought it into the conservation lab and we opened it up, it took a little over an hour to get the encrustation off inside we found this beautiful emerald-studded gold cross, its very ornate on the back, and there's seven emeralds in it, six of them are cabochon (ph), dark green cabochon emeralds; a five-foot gold chain attached to it and these two emerald rings, all very extremely rare and unique pieces.

COOPER: How much do you think this is worth?

FISHER: One of the biggest finds -- it's hard to say what it's all worth. A gemologist would need to look at the emeralds. I would say in excess of a couple hundred thousand dollars at minimum. The historic value makes it extremely rare and unique...

COOPER: Yes.

FISHER: ...being from a shipwreck.

COOPER: Yes.

Now, John, how often do things like this get discovered? It's got to be pretty rare.

WILSON: It is very rare. To find a box that's been through the shipwreck, through the hurricane and been on the bottom for 282 years, and not been have opened -- you know, I mean, there's been so many storms through here -- and then to find all the contents in good condition, is very rare.

COOPER: Hey, John, I hope this is OK to bring up. I understand your mom passed away about a year or so ago, and you think she might have had a hand in bringing this to you. Tell us about that.

WILSON: Well, it was interesting. We just built this house on the ocean right in front of the wreck site, and I spread my mom's ashes out over the ocean a year and a half ago, and I said to her, I said, Mom, I'm going to put you out here with all this great treasure. So every so often think of me and throw up a little treasure to me, and I think she did. i think this is her way of saying, Thanks for being OK.

COOPER: Taffi, what happens to it now?

FISHER: Well, it will go on display in our museum in Sebastian, Florida for awhile. It has to go through some conservation process to finish the cleaning of the pieces. It will, of course, be evaluated and appraised, measured, weighed, photographed.

It will -- it may travel to a couple of our other museums in Key West, Orlando, or Sanabel. In about a year from now, the state of Florida will come down and make a total inventory of what was found in the next 100 days or so on these sites, and we donate 20 percent to the state of Florida. And the remainder is for John and I and Clyde to share however we see fit. You know, whether it remains on display or goes up for sale.

COOPER: Well, congratulations both of you. Taffi Fisher apt (ph) and John Wilson, a great find. Good luck to you both. Congratulations.

WILSON: Thank you very much.

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