As the underwater video camera followed Eric Schmitt’s hand digging through the sand, the 27-year-old salvager suddenly let out a series of frantic gurgled screams and shouts.
At first you might assume he was in distress, but that wasn’t the case — in fact, Schmitt was on top of the world.
“Once I pulled it out of the sand I pretty much knew what it was right away,” Schmitt told WFTV-TV in Orlando of his discovery off Fort Pierce beach.
What he found is a “pyx” — a small, gold, frame-like object used to carry the Catholic church’s Holy Eucharist. The pyx was part of 1715 wreckage that sank there 299 years ago today, according to WESH-TV in Orlando.
The pyx it’s believed to be part of another item that was discovered about 25 years ago from the same wreck — and when the two pieces are placed together, they form a caged box for the Eucharist, the New York Daily News noted.
WFTV added that the 11 Spanish galleons that floundered in a hurricane were loaded with treasures.
“To find a piece of history, you could hear it in his voice,” Brent Brisben, the operations manager of 1715 Fleet – Queens Jewels, LLC, which salvages with Schmitt, told the Daily News. “Obviously it was a little salty but it was genuine.”
The pyx could be worth between $600,000 to $1 million, WESH noted; but the Schmitts and Queens Jewels said it’s priceless, WFTV reported.
Rick Schmitt, who heads things for his family business that’s been doing underwater digs for half a century, became emotional on camera after describing the find of a lifetime.
“It’s almost too much,” he told WESH. “It’s just so wonderful.”
Indeed, it looks to be a bit of winning streak for the Schmitts and Queens Jewels, who discovered $750,000 in treasure last year, WFTV reported.
The find happened over Memorial Day weekend but was just announced following the pyx’s repair, the Daily News said.
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All of the items discovered are automatic property of the Southern District of Florida, said Brisben, but his company is named as the court’s custodian.
That means the pieces will stay in their possession. At the end of the year the state of Florida will be entitled to a percentage of its worth.
Whatever’s left over will be split between Brisben and the Schmitt family, said Brisben.
“There’s nothing else like this piece in the world that’s been published that we know about,” Rick Schmitt told WESH. “I’m still on top of the wave. I haven’t come down yet.”