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Original Issue

A Bermuda explorer sells treasure and trinkets retrieved from sunken ships

The islands of Bermuda are shaped like a fishhook, and their beauty has caught the heart of many visitors. But just off the pink shores of the island are some 70 miles of coral reefs, which have been snaring ships almost since the island was first spotted in 1515.

Three to 400 wrecks are known to be trapped on the reefs. Many of the vessels are almost completely buried by centuries of sand. Teddy Tucker, a 44-year-old native of Bermuda, has for many years been exploring the old wrecks and bringing up all sorts of lost treasure and trinkets. He retrieves a lot that is fascinating, and everything is for sale.

He has found beautiful examples of pewterware, porcelain and candlesticks, as well as humbler things like shark fishhooks and bird shot used by sailors to supplement their meager fare. There are tobacco pipes and coins and buttons and ship's cannons; and his findings may have come from China or Europe or New England.

Tucker has a great many wrecks left to explore. Some he located with the help of old records and archives. Others he spotted from the air, swinging in a bosun's chair under a balloon. Once he starts excavating, it may take him a month or so, blowing out the sand in the remains of the hulk with compressed air, to tell whether he can hope to locate anything interesting or valuable.

When he does find actual treasure, it must first be offered for sale to the Bermuda government, after which it may be bought by museums, banks (for customer displays) or private collectors. Gold treasure is, of course, scarce and—well, worth its weight in gold. But other items need not be at all expensive. Sailing vessels, for instance, carried as ballast stones which spilled out when the ships foundered and left a distinct trail leading to the wreck; some people like to use these stones—and also recovered millstones—for terraces or gardens. Early 19th century ships carried glass bottles. Some of these have turned iridescent from the sea.

To buy treasure from Teddy Tucker, write to him explaining exactly what you would like, as well as the amount you wish to spend. He cannot cope with vague requests, and for purchases of, say, more than $5,000 he prefers you go to Bermuda to see the item. Many things can be sent by mail or shipped, but bottles—which are very popular now and which can cost as little as $5—are too breakable to be trusted to shipment and must be purchased in Bermuda. Tucker has a shop at Gibbs Hill Lighthouse at Southampton and can be reached by mail at King's Point House, Somerset, Bermuda.