He was an unlikely treasure hunter. Mel Fisher was not the man I would expect to scour the seas in search of sunken Spanish treasures.
- He was born in Gary, Indiana (no high seas there).
- In high school he formed a dance band (what’s that got to do with sunken treasure?).
- At Purdue University he studied hydraulic engineering (not diving).
- He spent part of his early days as a Chicken Farmer in California (chickens don't swim).
I may not haved pegged Mel Fisher to be a treasure hunter, but he is rightfully considered one of the greatest treasure hunters ever. Mel grew up reading Robert Lewis Stevenson's Treasure Island. He loved the water and he loved to dive and he got a taste of the hunt and the treasures it brought. In the 60‘s he discovered 1033 gold coins on the ocean bottom -- and he was hooked. “Once you see the ocean bottom carpted with gold coins, you'll never forget it!" he said.
In 1969, Mel began a quest to find the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, a Spanish galleon that sank off the coast of the Florida Keys in 1622 with gold, silver, and precious jewels worth in excess of 400 million dollars. Mel and his team would devote the next 16 years searching the ocean floor for hidden riches.
- At times they searched for months with no trace of treasure.
- In 1973, he found three silver bars matching the Atocha's manifest and knew he was close.
- In 1975, his son Dirk found five bronze cannons with Atocha markings.
- A few days later Dirk, his wife Angel, and diver Rick Gauge died when their vessel capsized.
Mel was crushed, but undaunted. He began every day with his personal motto: “Today’s the day!” Once more he resumed the search. Finally, eleven years later, he hit the mother lode. On July 20, 1985, his radio crackled with the voice of his son Kane, captain of one of their search vessels. Kane said, “Put away the charts. We’ve hit the pile.”
Mel Fisher teaches me that good things come to those who search. This is a lesson that God teaches me as well:
1 My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
2 making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3 yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
4 if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity.
Proverbs 2:1-7 ESV
Here is the amazing thing about God's treasure. He certifies it is far more valuable than anything Mel Fisher pulled out of the sea.
13 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who gets understanding,
14 for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
and her profit better than gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
Proverbs 3:13-17 ESV
Think about that: "nothing you desire can compare" with the riches of God's wisdom found in his word. So why don’t more people search?
- Maybe we don't really believe God.
- Maybe, like Mel's treasure hunt, it takes more work than we want to expend.
- Maybe we just don't know how to mine the word of God.
I imagine there are many things that keep us from God's treasure, but this I know: God promises the riches of wisdom to those who dive into his Word. It is a treasure waiting to be taken. All you have to do is open up the book and begin. What's keeping you?
Today's the day!
Note: If you need some help diving into the Bible, try taking these five simple steps: (1) Get alone. (2) Get quiet. (3) Get praying this prayer: "Open my eyes so I can truly see the marvelous things in your law" (Psalm 119:18 NET); (4) Get reading. Start with a chapter of Proverbs, Psalms, John, or James. Pick one verse from what you have read and ask: What is God saying? What does this mean for me? What does God want me to do?; (5) Get going. Put God's Word into practice.
"Once you see the ocean bottom..." in "Treasure," Kingman Daily Miner, December 2, 1976.
For more on Mel Fisher please see: "Tribute To Mel Fisher", and "Mel Fisher, 76, a Treasure Hunter Who Got Rich Undersea", and "Mel Fisher: Treasure Hunter and First California Dive Shop Owner", and "Sunken Treasure of 1622 Set For Philadelphia Auction."