Deep diver discovers centuries-old treasures off our coast

He’s been called the modern-day Indiana Jones.

Mike Torres begrudgingly admits he’s heard the comparison before – but there are a few differences. He doesn’t share the movie character’s fear of snakes and he doesn’t carry a whip – though he does have an amazing collection of swords and rifles.

Brevard residents are just learning about Torres since two recent, headline-making discoveries in Melbourne Beach, but over the years the Satellite Beach man has traveled the world, amassing incredible finds. The list includes a Roman Amphora that predates the birth of Christ, medieval armor, Japanese scrolls from the 1700s, ancient swords dating back to 1580, and treasured pieces from the Ming Dynasty – to name a few. He’s explored the catacombs of Turkey and the historical sites of London – and he’s suffered the consequences of foreign travel including bouts with cholera and dysentery.

Two years ago, he accepted a spot on the advisory board for Seafarer Exploration, an underwater exploration, recovery and conservation company currently searching for treasure off the coast of Melbourne Beach. In January, that’s where he found an ancient Peruvian funeral mask under 7 feet of sand, and just last week another exciting find just 150 yards away – a Spanish Doubloon, stamped with the date 1712.

He believes both items are from the 1715 Spanish Fleet; 12 treasure-laden ships that encountered a catastrophic storm off the coast of Vero Beach. While one ship completed the journey, six others ran aground, and a vast amount of treasure was recovered, but five others disappeared into the night. Seafarer Exploration believes one of those ships is off the coast of Melbourne Beach and they have been working diligently offshore with divers and specialized equipment to locate it.

Evidence suggests other artifacts previously found near the site – a silver inscribed platter, and a Ramirez pistol – were aboard the Santisima Trinidad y Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, one of the five ships from 1715 Fleet that disappeared in the storm.

Torres said the latest find gives a huge boost of confidence to everyone involved in the project, and has encouraged a rush of new investors.

However, the most recent items found – the mask and the doubloon – are not part of Seafarer’s booty. Because they were found on the beach, they belong to the individual who finds them. Seafarer only has dominion over the sea. But Torres said Seafarer is ecstatic over the discoveries because it means they are in the right place, and on the right track.

Torres said he will not sell the Peruvian mask, but may donate it to a museum.

Before joining Seafarer, he earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Citadel, and after graduation, was commissioned in the U.S. Army as a Second Lieutenant. He served two combat tours Afghanistan with the 3rd Brigade 505th of the 82nd Airborne Division. While in the army, he earned his Doctorate of Aeronautical Engineering from Duke University and received numerous medals including a Purple Heart with Oak Cluster and the Bronze Star with Valor. In addition to his work with Seafarer he is an adjunct professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Chief Technical Officer for Advanced Autonomous Radar Interrogation Technology, LLC (AARIT), a subsidiary of Seafarer Exploration, that develops technologies for government agencies, aerospace companies, and defense contractors.

As for the coin, Torres was not alone in that find. Daniel Votrobek, an advanced diver with Seafarer, was there to lend a hand in the search. Before joining Seafarer, Votrobek served two tours of duty in Iraq and was also awarded the Purple Heart. He went on to get his bachelor’s degree in business and earn certification as a master diver.

The duo spent nearly 72 hours straight in brisk, windy weather before they found the coin. Torres was able to use calculations he formed from previous satellite information to isolate areas of the beach that contained certain metals – and they focused their search there.

Torres gave the coin to Votrobek to keep – and with Seafarer’s blessing, he plans to turn it into a medallion he can wear around his neck.

“It’s so surreal for me,” Votrobek said. “It feels so amazing to be part of this incredible find and I believe Seafarer will make history here. Excitement is at an all-time high.”

Of course, there is one small consequence of this victory: After spending three days in the cold, windy weather of the beach, Torres believes he has pneumonia and said his next adventure will be a trip to the doctor.

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