After his initial sighting of the silver bar in 1984, my father Greg Brooks became very interested in the subject of treasure hunting. At that time, he was a full-time swimming pool contractor, something he was doing well with. Despite how successful his swimming pool business was, he couldn’t stop thinking about that silver bar he had seen while diving in Haiti. After his return to Maine, my dad started visiting the library to learn more about shipwrecks and buried treasure. His initial belief was that sunken ships would just be sitting out in the open on the ocean floor – like the Titanic. Through some research, he realized that this was not the case. Many sunken ships break into pieces, or become partially buried or obscured on the ocean floor. It is very common for people to pass by fully visible sunken ships without even realizing they are there. It takes a trained eye to see them, and my dad started learning exactly how to do just that. One of the things he discovered was that there are no straight lines in nature, so any unusually straight “reefs” were probably not reefs, and would in fact be sunken ships.
For the next four years, the bar never left my dad’s thoughts. In 1988, he decided to travel back to Haiti with his cousin and a couple of friends. This time, my mom stayed at home, since I had been born the previous year. By this time, the dictatorship of Baby Doc Duvalier was over and Haiti was in a transitional governmental phase. While this created a lot of political turmoil in the country, it was much safer to travel than four years prior. Despite this, my dad still had yet another encounter with the Haitian government. Upon arrival, my dad and his friends landed in the Dominican Republic, where they rented a van that they would drive into Haiti. The Haitian border patrol told them they couldn’t take the van into Haiti, so they had to travel on foot with all their luggage. While walking, they were seized by soldiers, who put my dad into a Jeep and drove off with him, leaving his cousin Mike and their other traveling companions waiting with a group of other soldiers. The Jeep took my dad back to the border, in order to confirm that the group had legally entered and had not sneaked into the country undetected. There were no problems here, but back at the place they had been intercepted, Mike was so sure that my dad had been killed that he was about to break through a soldier’s gun rack to shoot his way to my father. He was understandably relieved when the Jeep brought my dad back, unharmed.
At the Cormier Plage resort, the group was able to rent air tanks for diving. Since the dictatorship, tourism in Haiti had decreased dramatically, and so the resort owner was very enthusiastic and eager to help my dad and his group in whatever way he could. Unfortunately, the air tanks he lent them had strange air that tasted a bit like engine exhaust. My dad almost died during that dive trip. The air affected him so much that he threw off his equipment and started swimming deeper, obviously hallucinating from lack of oxygen. My dad’s friend Artie saved his life, pulling him out from the deep just in time. While on the trip, they did manage to find the original silver bar, along with a second identical one. My dad now knew that they were from the early 1700s and were probably Spanish in origin. The bars were almost entirely black, from sitting under the ocean for so long. That’s another thing my father had learned – silver oxidizes when under seawater, turning black. Gold and platinum remain unaffected. In fact, on many Key West beaches, people throw black stones into the water all the time, finding their flat surfaces perfect for skimming. Little do they know they are throwing oxidized silver coins, which have washed up from nearby shipwrecks.
The silver bars in the image below are very similar to the ones spotted by my dad in Haiti – they are Spanish, thought to be from the late 1600s or early 1700s.