The Poison Cup Story
By Kim Fisher
It was a long time ago. My first wife JoArden Michael was pregnant with our eldest son, Jeremy. Jeremy was born in January 1975 so it must have been the summer of 1974. The ocean was flat calm, like a sheet of glass. Because the seas were so calm and there was no wind the Captain of the Virgilona Demostonese “Mo” Molinar had decided to spend the night on the Atocha site. We were going to work until dark.
We were working in shallow sand just one or two feet deep on the edge of the “Quicksands”. Because of the water depth and the shallow sand, we were running the mailboxes at an idle dusting away the fine white sand. It was the last hole of the day and the sun had already sunk halfway below the horizon. I was the only one still suited up and the rest of the crew was busy putting their gear away and clearing the decks for the night.
As I was about to push off the dive ladder JoArden, tongue in cheek, told me, “Find me a gold chalice!” As incredible as it seems, I followed her order. As soon as I got to the bottom, I saw gold. It looked like a dragon or “maritime dolphin” I stared in awe for about two minutes as the mailboxes gently dust the sand away. What I had first seen was what turned out to be one of the handles of a magnificent intricately smithed, gold poison cup.
When I surfaced with the poison cup the excitement, as you can imagine, was tremendous. Even though the sun had already set everyone was suited up and back in the water within five minutes. The base of the cup which is threaded and actually can be unscrewed from the cup was found about twenty feet away.
A second hurricane that tracked over the Atocha in 1622 was so powerful it had ripped the Atocha apart. The main pile was so heavy that it didn’t move but the upper decks including the forecastle and stern castle were torn from the hull and scattered for several miles ending up in the “Quicksands”. This spot we lovingly refer to as “The Bank of Spain”. During this tremendous storm which mercilessly pounded the ship apart the poison cup had been crushed. We located a gold smith well known for restoring antiques like this. He was an Octogenarian and took most of the rest of the year to restore the cup using only his hands. That’s how pure the gold was.
At the time we didn’t know what we had. I mean we knew we had a beautiful gold cup but it wasn’t until early the next year when brought in numerous experts to examine all of the unique “artifacts of distinction” that we had recovered the previous year that we found out what we had. Priscilla Muller one of the top experts in Hispanic art history and jewelry took one look at it and said, “Oh my goodness, you’ve found a poison cup.” It turns out that in the bottom of the cup was a large mount, around one inch tall that held a bezoar stone.
A bezoar stone comes from the alimentary track of a llama or goat. When arsenic, a common poison in 1622, comes in contact with a bezoar stone the stone would turn dark, warning its owner that someone was trying to poison him. After hearing the story we hired a chemist to see if it was true. It is. they had some pretty sharp people back then to figure that out. We have found numerous bezoar stones on the Atocha and Margarita since then. Some were just loose, found in a wooden box along with some gold chains. Others were in elaborate gold bezels worn on a gold chain around the neck and could be dipped into any cup to test for arsenic.
I hope you enjoyed this tidbit of treasure hunting. I know it is a day that I will never forget.
Today’s the day!
Museum quality "Columbia Plain Pottery" found on the Atocha site!
️⚓️ New footage of the bowl recovered from the Atocha site. Watch as Treasure Diver Tim Meade shows you the fully intact bowl discovered this month. This style pottery is known as "Columbia Plain" and is thought to be well preserved because of it's thick nature. Here is an excerpt from Archeologist Mitchell W. Marken, "CERAMICS from the Nuestra Señora de Atocha" explaining more about Columbia Plain Pottery. "The second most common ceramic tradition found on Spanish shipwrecks is the Columbia Plain type tin glazed earthenwares. These wares were used as the everyday plates (platos) and drinking bowls (escudillas) by crew and less wealthy passengers. The platos and escudillas were probably made on molds as a fair degree of uniformity exists." This find is very unique because it is fully intact and still has a good amount of glaze left on it. You can just feel the history and only imagine what it was like to be a crew member on one of these vessels.
✞ Whether you wear it as a symbol of religious faith or a fashion statement, our Amethyst Cross is truly beautiful. This museum quality re-creation piece was made to resemble a cross recovered by Jack Haskins in 1989 while sub-contracting with Mel Fisher Center, Inc. The shipwreck which some researchers believe to be the Nuestra Señora de la Regla (nicknamed the Cabin Wreck) was part of the 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet.
August 4, 2012 a beautiful gold box ring with a 2.75 carat emerald was found on the Atocha site by the Magruder crew. This was not the first box ring found on the Atocha and Margarita site. As you can see from portrait below the box ring was very popular in this time period. Queen Elizabeth I painted by unknown English Artist, oil on panel, circa 1600, shows several examples of this style.
Treasure Hunter, Syd Jones, former Capt. of Mel Fisher's salvage vessel J.B. Magruder and Operations Manager
Treasure Hunter, Syd Jones, former captain of Mel Fisher's salvage vessel J.B. Magruder and Operations Manager, shares his favorite Today's the Day moment on the Margarita shipwreck site. Tune in and here about a BIG find!
Treasure Hunter, Andy Matroci, the captain of the JB Magruder, brings to life the first time he found GOLD! Mel famously said, "Once you have seen the ocean bottom paved with gold, you'll never forget it!" When did you first catch gold fever?
Today's the Day!
Did you know our Taffi Fisher Collection pieces are museum quality re-creations made with 100% Atocha Silver?
This jewelry line is made from silver bar #85A-S948 recovered from the motherload of the Spanish shipwreck, Nuestra Senora de Atocha, in July of 1985.
Watch and learn more about this jewelry line from our Virtual Treasure Specialist, Taffi Fisher Aby herself!