The Real Treasure Hunters have come a long way from social media in their hunt for the treasure of Jose Gaspar in the Peace River.
A treasure said to be worth $30 million.
Michael Gattuso and his crew got a cable debut Wednesday night in an episode of Discovery Channel’s show “Expedition Unknown.”
Next week, they’ll also be featured on the Sept. 17 episode of Travel Channel show “Code of the Wild” titled “Lost Treasure of Panther Key.”
“It was definitely an amazing experience,” Gattuso said. “They were doing a lot of stuff we never thought of. Everything was done really professional. The certain shots they took. They were very particular on how they tried to tell the story and being able to tell it through television was amazing.”
Discovery was able to offer Gattuso whatever he and his team wanted − boats, helicopters. Everything, that is, but a way to dig out the actual treasure which is submerged under water and the ground beneath.
“We know where the treasure is,” Gattuso said. “We’ve been able to pinpoint it, so I do wish that Discovery would have helped us dig the treasure out. They are out to tell a story. That’s the difference between us and all the other shows. They aren’t real. They host shows to tell a story. What we do is real − we’re out to find the treasure, not just tell the story.”
They were able to pinpoint what they believe to be the treasure using ground penetrating radar, a system that uses radar pulses to locate objects underground, among other uses.
“Discovery called me first,” Gattuso said. “We had located the treasure that we wanted to make sure that we gave them a story but they said they couldn’t give us the equipment we needed to (actually) dig it out of the ground. They’re out to tell a story, not to find treasure.”
Gattuso said Travel Channel called him next and were willing to give them whatever they needed, but they withheld most of the details since that show doesn’t air until Tuesday.
According to legend, Jose Gaspar settled along the southwest coast of Florida around 1783 and turned to piracy aboard his ship, the Floriblanca. Gaspar established his base on Gasparilla Island and became the “scourge of the Gulf of Mexico and the Spanish Main.”
The myth tells that Gaspar plundered dozens of ships, collecting treasure along the way. Gaspar died between 1821 and 1822, according to the tale, soon after Spain transferred control of the Florida Territory to the United States.
He retired after almost 40 years of piracy, dividing the treasure between him and his crew at his base on Gasparilla Island. Supposedly, a battle was held between a British merchant ship and the Floriblanca. The supposed merchant ship raised an American flag, revealing that it was the U.S. Navy schooner USS Enterprise, which was on the hunt for pirates.
In the battle that followed, Gaspar’s ship was hit by multiple cannonballs. Instead of surrendering, Gaspar is said to have wrapped an anchor chain around his waist and leapt from the bow of his ship.
The legend tells that most of his surviving crew were captured and hanged; however, a few escaped. Some versions say that one of these survivors was John (Juan) Gomez, who would tell the tale of Jose Gaspar to future generations.
As the ship sank, Gomez grabbed Gaspar’s seven maps and fled along the Peace River, according to Gattuso. “As he flees,” Gattuso said in a March 2018 Arcadian report, “the story says he paid $300,000 as hush money to Lady Boggess. We located the Boggess family who are now married into the Collins family. Their affiliation is part of the pirate tale that supposedly Juan Gomez had paid them off to keep them hush-hush as to where he was.”
Gattuso said the map was given to them by the Boggess family — who came across the original map after finding Juan Gomez dead.
“There are parts in the treasure map that give you the places it could be,” Gattuso said, “so that’s why we came up with multiple locations because we wanted to be able to check those multi areas that could be a possibility.”
One of those locations is marked by a large cypress tree with a Roman numeral three carved into it. That tree stands on a shoreline near the crew’s search sites. Based on stories from Juan Gomez’s great-grandchildren, who searched for the treasure in the 1950s, there were Roman numerals marked on trees in relation to the treasure’s location.
“When we found that marked tree,” said Gattuso, “it shows us that the story is real because now it ties us in to their story what they were doing back in the 1950s. That’s what the motivation came from. The stories they’re telling us are just as real as the buried treasure."
The treasure is still out there, Gattuso said. He is currently in talks with the History Channel to continue the hunt.