Mel Fisher Days celebrate the Keys' beloved treasure salvor

July 5, 2014 

Mel Fisher shows off some of the bounty from the ‘Atocha.’


The late Mel Fisher, who sought and salvaged the shipwrecked Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha, is to be remembered July 10 through 13 during Mel Fisher Days.

Fisher and his crew uncovered a $450 million cache of Atocha treasure and artifacts in July 1985 after a 16-year search. The galleon sank about 35 miles southwest of Key West during a 1622 hurricane. Fisher's son Kim Fisher leads the continuing search for Atocha artifacts and treasures that still remain undiscovered.

Fisher died in 1998, but the wreck is still giving up treasure.

Festival highlights include a dock party with the salvage crew, behind-the-scenes tours of the Fisher family's private artifact conservation lab, a team treasure hunt and a street party that recalls Fisher's exuberant spirit.

Events are to begin at 11 a.m. July 10 dockside at the Schooner Wharf Bar, 202 William St. in Key West's historic seaport. Fisher's 100-foot treasure salvage vessel J.B. Magruder is to be on display while current and past crewmembers share memories and treasure tales.

Among the evening's attractions are a pirate pub crawl and pirate ball with contest prizes including an Atocha coin.

July 11 is to feature 45-minute guided tours of the private conservation laboratory at Mel Fisher's Treasures, 200 Greene St., spotlighting the techniques experts use to conserve priceless shipwreck artifacts.

That evening, the Amazing Mel Fisher Treasure Hunt is to take place in Key West's Old Town with teams vying for a "treasure chest" containing $5,000 in silver dollars.

The winning team is to be announced July 12 during the Mel Fisher Days Sizzlin' Street Fair, set for 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the 200 block of Duval Street. Activities include live music by the Spam Allstars, a silent auction, food and drink, a dunk tank, games and family fun.

Also that day, salvage fans can view Fisher family videos of his early expeditions and attend the presentation of the Mel Fisher Lifetime Achievement Award. Events take place at the Tropic Cinema, 416 Eaton St.

The highlight July 13 is a Midnight Gambler Poker Tournament that celebrates Fisher's sense of adventure and optimism. High rollers are to compete from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. aboard Sunset Watersports' Party Cat catamaran.

Net proceeds from Mel Fisher Days festivities benefit Wesley House Family Services, which provides social services to families Keyswide.

For specifics on event costs and the like, go to or call 296-6534.

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