Diving Museum honors pioneer Art McKee

October 17, 2013 

The Florida Keys History of Diving Museum, located at mile marker 83 bayside, is to launch a new “Dive Into History” quarterly event series with the inaugural “Art McKee Days” set for Friday through Sunday, Nov. 1-3.

The celebration recognizes the pioneering contributions made by the late McKee, widely recognized as the father of modern treasure diving, whose achievements include salvaging the La Capitana shipwreck from Spain’s 1733 Armada.

The family-friendly commemoration, anticipated to become an annual event, is to include film screenings, parties, contests, children’s activities, appearances by special guests, educational opportunities and more.

Friday night’s highlight is to be a showing of the 1955 film “Underwater!” at 7 p.m. in the museum’s Bauer Diving History Research Library. Seating is limited, so attendees are encouraged to arrive early.

The following day, an island-wide treasure hunt is set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with clues placed around Islamorada.

Other Saturday events include a 3 p.m. gathering on the grounds of the museum, where a monument is to be dedicated to McKee. From 7-10 p.m. Saturday, a Treasure Hunters’ Ball is planned with pirate-themed entertainment, music and culinary delights. Costumes are encouraged but not mandatory.

A junior treasure hunt is scheduled Sunday at the museum along with other activities for kids. Art McKee began salvaging the La Capitana wreck off the Upper Keys in the late 1930s. He later uncovered the sites of the Infante, Herrera, Chaves, San Pedro and San Joseph, according to accounts from fellow salvor Jack Haskins of Islamorada.

Primarily interested in the Capitana, McKee concentrated on this wreck and reaped a rich harvest in gold, silver and artifacts. In addition, he was appointed the state’s first acting underwater archaeologist.

Admission to most “Art McKee Days” events is free, although tickets for the Treasure Hunters’ Ball are $20 per person. Advance ticket purchase information is to be posted at www.DivingMuseum.org.

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