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Professional Treasure Hunter Follows Trail Of Gold To The Lost 1715 Spanish Fleet

Source: TCPalm/Kaila Jones

More than 300 years have passed, but the hunt continues in Indian River County, Florida – where one professional treasure hunter refuses to give up on his quest for artifacts that once belonged to the infamous 1715 Treasure Fleet. He and his first mate have been at it for five years, and have quite a collection of gold, silver, and more!

Meet Michael Perna: A Professional Treasure Hunter

Michael Perna is a passionate treasure hunter who spends most of his summer mornings, days, and evenings in Vero Beach, Florida – but not on land. Instead, he and his first mate, Milan ‘Choppy, Kalelkar, spend most of their time excavating the ocean floor near Ambersand Beach – an unguarded beach south of the Sebastian Inlet.

Source: TCPalm/Kaila Jones

Perna and Kalelkar have been scouring these parts for more than five years – operating along the same mile-long strip of water in search of whatever they could find. It hasn’t been easy, but the two have enjoyed a lot of success together – and they owe a lot of that success to their trusty boat, ‘The Mighty Mo.’

‘The Might Mo’ Was Inspired By Perna’s Mentor

‘The Mighty Mo’ has been through a lot over the past few decades. It was initially used as a dinghy for a battleship commissioned by the Navy, but was eventually decommissioned and converted into a tow boat. It wasn’t until 2010 that Michael Perna bought it and turned it into a research vessel.’

Source: TCPalm/Kaila Jones

He named the boat ‘The Mighty Mo’ in honor of his mentor, Demostenes ‘Mo’ Molinar, who introduced Perna to treasure hunting in the early-2000s. Perna was so inspired by his mentor’s passion for the hobby that he named his entire salvage operation after him – calling it Mo Divers.

5 Years Ago, Perna And Milan Discovered Something Incredible

In 2019, Perna and his first mate discovered something that set them down a five-year quest – one that continues to this day. The duo came across seven gold coins near ‘Anchor Wreck,’ an area where previous divers discovered an unidentified anchor. Perna found the coins under five feet of sand, roughly 12 feet underwater.

Source: TCPalm/Kaila Jones

Between 2019 and 2020, Perna and his salvage team discovered nearly 1,000 silver coins and another four gold coins – for a total of 11 gold coins. In 2021, they came across a chest filled with interesting artifacts (more than 50 total), including silver figurines, candlestick holders, candelabras, and other ornate objects.

What Is The 1715 Treasure Fleet?

In July 1715, a dozen or so Spanish ships set sail for Seville, Spain, from Havana, Cuba. The fleet was transporting precious gold and silver items acquired in Central and South America during Queen Anne’s War. Unfortunately, extreme weather conditions – including a hurricane – halted their expedition just one week after their departure.

Source: TCPalm/Kaila Jones

Survivors began setting up camps on nearby land – all in an effort to preserve the gold and silver lost in the wreckage. Historians are still trying to piece together what happened next, but that’s why people like Michael Perna are still searching those waters. Like the survivors of 1715, they want to preserve as much of that history as possible.

How Does Perna Excavate the Ocean Floor?

So, how does Perna find these artifacts? It’s actually quite interesting! He and his first mate use a three-point anchoring system to secure the boat while searching the ocean floor. A blower (seen in the picture below) sits behind the propeller to direct the motor flush downward, which helps remove sediment without damaging potential findings.

Source: TCPalm/Kaila Jones

Mel Fisher, a famous treasure hunter credited with discovering the Nuestra Senora de Atocha wreck of 1622, was the first person to use this ‘blower’ technique in the 1960s – but it still proves itself worthy and is a big reason why Perna and Milan are having so much success in Indian River County today.

How Often Do The Mo Divers Excavate?

If it were up to Perna and Milan, they’d be out there excavating all day, every day. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible with the type of weather Florida gets. Instead, they hunt for treasure roughly 70 days out of the year (during the summer) – though some summer seasons are better than others.

Source: TCPalm/Kaila Jones

Talking to, Perna detailed his team’s primary goal every year – that being a total of 1,500 to 2,000 excavations. On a good day, they regularly knock out 30 excavations daily – hopefully for 70 days or more. Their long days start in the wee hours of the morning and end just before sundown.

Staying Warm And Healthy With Hot Bone Broth

Those long days take a lot out of Perna and his team, but their passion keeps them going – a hot sip of high-protein bone broth helps, too. Bone broth is a stock made by boiling animal bones and tissue – it’s what you make soup with. It’s Perna’s go-to choice when he needs something quick, filling, healthy, warm, and nutritious.

Source: TCPalm/Kaila Jones

“It’s a lot of hard work. It’s difficult to create that mentality and keep going. It’s like a marathon, you just keep going and going,” Perna said, according to an interview with TCPalm. Despite the long days and nonstop manual labor, what Perna and his first mate are doing is one of the most rewarding hobbies in the world.

Michael Perna Describes What It Takes To Hunt For Treasure

In his interview, Perna detailed the qualities it takes to do what he and his team does. “It just takes guys like us to really go out there and look for it because it’s a needle in a haystack. It takes a lot of diligence, a lot of persistence and maybe just a little bit of craziness to keep going.”

Source: TCPalm/Kaila Jones

He and Milan have been searching these waters for treasure for nearly five years now, but they’re not done – and they’re not alone. In fact, one man named Brent Brisben – CEO of 1715 Fleet Queens Jewels – found more than $4 million worth of gold in that same area in 2015, marking the 300-year anniversary of the wreckage.

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Clare Edis

Written by Clare Edis

Clare Edis is a prolific and imaginative writer known for her captivating storytelling and profound exploration of the human experience through words. Born with an insatiable curiosity, Clare has always had a unique ability to breathe life into her narratives, transporting readers to worlds both familiar and fantastical.

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