IRICK << MEL & ME
Irick looks back on the time he spent on a
treasure-diving boat, and calls it a paid adventure.
diver turned photographer and cinematographer arrived in
Key West in 1973 as a 22-year-old employee for the State
of Florida in the Division of Archives, History and
job: dive for treasure and be sure that everything found
was marked and tagged properly before it was turned over
to the state officials. Corky’s
presence on the boats was not always a welcome one, but
he worked hard to be sure it was not an adversarial
called me the ‘state man,” he said recently while
remembering his adventure in the Keys.
some of the people diving for Mel, Corky was receiving a
regular paycheck – from the government, and it was his
job to make sure everything was done correctly. But once
the “state man” proved himself both onboard the boat
and on the bottom of the ocean, he was respected as a
member of the crew and team. And Corky says his job was
made easier by the enthusiasm and openness of the
treasure team. Other underwater field agents in his
division were faced with the task of policing dive sites
to be sure no divers were slipping coins into their
wetsuits to keep the State from knowing they were found.
never saw anyone take anything,” Corky said
emphatically. “It always seemed that everyone was so
happy to have found something they couldn’t wait to
tell everyone else.”
worked on Mel’s boats for about six years before
moving on to other places and adventures. But he ran
into Mel about 10 years ago and started talking to his
“We started talking about treasure, of course,”
Corky said. “And I just happened to mention that the
only thing I had from my six years on the boats were my
a government employee Corky was not entitled to any
share of the treasure, as other divers would have been.
He had thousands of photos both underwater and topside,
but no treasure.
of sudden, Mel looked at me and pulled three silver
coins out of his pocket,” Corky said. “He always had
treasure with him.” Corky still has those three silver
coins, along with countless pictures, which he intends
to donate to the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society
for its archives. But the silver coins were not the only
mark of generosity that left an indelible impression on
thinks back to the time when fellow treasure hunter, Art
McKee, died. Mel had a wake for the man at the Pier
House, and brought all the treasure hunters in the area
together, which was no small feat, as Corky remembers.
The group was one that had problems trusting each other,
and did not want to share any secrets of the trade. But
Mel was able to gather them all and force them to forget
their differences for one night while all remembered Art
McKee. “Of course Mel held court among everyone,
and they told war stories,” he said. “And I was
invited – the ‘state man. So I thought I had finally
arrived when I was invited to that party,” Corky said,
remembering how Mel had picked up the tab, and ensured
that the party lasted as long as possible.
was a larger than life kind of person, and working with
him was a great adventure.”
Did you know Mel? Would you like your story included?