National Geographic : 1971 Jul
Finders and keepers: Treasure hunting amid Bermuda's ship-snaring reefs has been a lifetime passion for underwater sleuth Teddy Tucker. He plucked the 2'/4-inch emerald-studded gold cross (left) - worth more than $100,000-from un der two feet of sand near the wrecked 16th-century Spanish ship San Pedro (map, page 97). The government exer cised its right to purchase such treasure and now exhibits the jewel in its museum at The Flatts Village. Finders can usually keep lesser but still-valuable items. A member of Teddy's team (below) recovers a glazed stone ware bowl and sherds of an olive-oil jar from a wreck site. One of a late-16th century Spanish vessel's three anchors (right) rides a winch line to the surface. an important piece of evidence. But that's all I seem to be able to get from this wreck-a bit of evidence here, a bit there, leading to no solid answer." A 46-year-old bear of a man, Teddy Tucker has been pursuing sunken treasure for almost half his life (pages 116-17). In the 1950's, after years of following clues, he surfaced from two sunken ships with a Spanish treasure worth $180,000, including gold bars and a magnifi cent gold cross inlaid with emeralds (above). Since then he has discovered and scoured dozens of wrecks, but few seemed to have the promise of the one we were diving on. This 16th-century vessel had apparently never been disturbed. It should have yielded, if not a treasure, at least a ship's purse. After more than two years of painstaking excavation, Teddy still hadn't been able to 94 solve her mystery. "She can't have been sal vaged already," he said. "Otherwise, we wouldn't have found her guns. They're the first things to go." The day before, Teddy had found a silver coin-so badly oxidized that it seemed noth ing more than a black stone until he cracked it open and revealed the faint imprint of a design. Today he had found a crushed silver chalice. "It was probably used to celebrate Mass," he said, "which means she was a Catholic ship, most likely Spanish or Portu guese. But we already knew that." "How?" I asked. "She held her liquids in olive-oil jars rather than in barrels, the way the English did. Be sides, she had been to Spanish ports. Tobacco meant she had probably been in Cuba. Her deck cargo was lignum vitae."