The lost treasure of Cape Romano: Treasure Hunters, the Find and the Big Crescent Beach

Part two of a three-part series

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When the Mackle brothers’ Deltona Corporation decided to develop Marco Island as an island paradise off a then-remote region, the Southwest Florida coast, they knew an outstanding beachside resort was needed to showcase the largest and most spectacular of the Ten Thousand Islands.

The Mackles also decided, after beginning to develop the 24 square miles of island, that the best location to build the new Tahitian-style resort was nearly the epicenter of Marco Island’s big crescent beach.

Construction on the massive property that was to be the Marco Beach Hotel and Villas began in 1970. The plans called for a 10-story beachside tower of oversized hotel rooms, an elegant lobby and reception area to be the envy of anything in Hawaii, a beachside restaurant named after a notorious bar in Tahiti, and a swimming pool that was to be the largest in Southwest Florida. The complete endeavor was designed to rival any other resort in the sunshine state, and with a supporting airline, two championship golf courses and every water sport imaginable; this coastal engineering project spared no expense.

When the tower was just a concrete frame with supporting structures emerging from the sand, the bustling construction site was visited by two historians that turned out to be treasure hunters.

After visiting the jobsite superintendent, the treasure hunters explained they had a strong belief that a lost treasure ship lie just beneath the white sandy beach, directly in front of the waterside resort currently under construction. The men produced a photostatic copy of an antiquated mariner’s chart showing a crescent beach with an island background that resembled the curve of beach like the one in front of the new hotel.

With a little coaxing and a promise to share what was found, the chief engineer was convinced, and ordered several large pieces of heavy equipment to begin digging on the beach. The site chosen was approximately 90 feet from the entrance to what is now Quinn’s on the Beach, at the Marriott’s Marco Island Beach Resort.

After several hours of digging, a large crater appeared as machines worked fast to combat the rising water. Well points were placed around the excavation site and pumps were used to stem the flood of an incoming tide. Many of the construction crew crowded around the massive crater as the word had spread that the boss was looking for a lost treasure ship.

Even with the pumps working at full capacity, it was soon apparent that the rising water was going to win the day. In a last-ditch effort to achieve what was unattainable by conventional excavation, another plan was launched to unearth the sunken ship – a large, high-pressure drill was positioned over the excavation to probe even deeper into the sand.

Every supervisor, carpenter and laborer watched as the drill began pulling up dark sulfurous water and pieces of blackened wood. The excitement of discovery spread across every face around, until one of Deltona’s senior executives walked up to the crowded excavation. After a quick evaluation revealed that all work had stopped on the resort and that the crew was anxiously watching the activity in the center of a large hole, the man with the tie approached the chief engineer.

“What are you guys doing?” the executive demanded. “What’s going on here?”

“We are looking for a lost treasure ship. And we found it!” The chief engineer replied. “There’s wood coming out; wood from a Spanish ship! It’s right here under the sand!”

“Well, if it’s here, it’s sure not going anywhere, but right now, it looks like the tide is coming in, and we need to get back to work.”

According to island lore and legend, there were even bits of metal coming out of the drill that day, as well as wood exhibiting grain patterns, possibly from a wooden ship constructed in the 1700s.

Even after the rising tide has covered the clues and the men have long gone back to work, a spark of excitement about the treasure remains to this day. The story of the lost and buried shipwreck beneath the Marriott beach cannot be authenticated, but when compared to the legend and lore of Captain Calico Jack Rackham’s lost treasure of Cape Romano and Caxambas, many believe the large white crescent beach described in the pirate legends can only be the Marco Island beach.

Tom Williams has been a local sailboat captain and Marriott associate for 29 years. His debut adventure novel “Lost and Found” has been released by Archebooks and is available at Sunshine Book Sellers and Amazon.com. Tom is available at lostandfoundadventure.com.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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