- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2000

KEY WEST, Fla. The treasure hunters who found the gold-laden Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha have found another part of the sunken wreck that is yielding gold bars, money chains, silver coins and jewelry.

The sparkling booty, estimated to be worth about $500,000, was exhibited and unloaded from a salvage vessel yesterday. The salvors believe there could be millions of dollars more in treasure yet to be discovered.

"We think this is probably going to be bigger than the initial mother lode," said Morgan Perkins, a representative of the Fisher family.

Mel Fisher, the famed treasure hunter who died in 1998, found the first silver coin from the Nuestra in 1971. The family found the main pile in 1985.

The Atocha, carrying millions in gold and silver bullion, was bound for Spain from the New World when it went down in a hurricane about 30 miles west of Key West in 1622. Mr. Fisher's company, Treasure Salvors Inc., has recovered artifacts estimated to be worth $200 million to $500 million.

Mel Fisher's son, Kim Fisher, said his dive teams located the sterncastle the galleon's rear structure where aristocracy, the clergy and their belongings traveled about 12 miles northwest of the original find 15 years ago.

The latest find was made Sunday. Mr. Fisher said his crews uncovered three solid gold bars, 120 silver coins, several gold chains, a gold medallion of possible Aztec origin and assorted other pieces of Indian jewelry believed to have come from South America.

"In addition to the gold and silver, we're finding swords, cannon balls, rifles and other armaments," Mr. Fisher said.

There may be "one-of-a kind artifacts" still undiscovered, Mr. Perkins said.

"You'll find gold chains that no one else has seen. A shipwreck is like a window into the past because it's perfectly preserved and not many of those artifacts exist today."

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