This Friday, August 25, will mark a special anniversary of sorts. On this day in 1997, members of the Real Eight Company got together for their last public appearance. The occasion was the production of a historical documentary on the 1715 Fleet produced for the Arts and Entertainment Network. Filming was done at the Sebastian Inlet Marina, Sebastian, Florida. Present were Bob Johnson, Dan Thompson, Lou Ullian, Harry Cannon, John Jones and Del Long.
The images (below) were taken by Ernie Richards, who was also present during this historic gathering. For purposes of identification, clockwise from upper left is Bob Johnson sitting on the end wearing a printed shirt, with a hat and glasses. Next to him is Dan Thompson, wearing a white hat. Next to Dan on the end is Lou Ullian, with a shirt sporting blue and white horizontal lines. Across from Lou on the end is Harry Cannon, in a white shirt. Next to him in the middle, with long white hair, is John Jones. Next to John, on the end, is Del Long.
REAL-8 CORPORATION HOLDS REUNION
Surviving members of the ten-man team that rocked the world by finding tons of Spanish silver coins and bars off Florida’s east coast beginning in the 1950s, got together on Monday, 25 August 1997 to star in an upcoming TV special. Filming on location at the Inlet Marina in Sebastian, Florida, was performed by California production company Greystone Communications.
The original salvage group, Real Eight Corporation, was founded in the early 1960s by Kip Wagner and rose to instant fame in 1965, when a feature story about their unprecedented finds appeared in the January issue of National Geographic. Their celebrity was further enhanced in 1966 with the publishing of Pieces of Eight by Wagner and L. B. Taylor, Jr. Only Harry Cannon, Bob Johnson, John Jones, Del Long, Dan Thompson, and Lou Ullian attended the on-film reunion. Conspicuously missing were co-author L. B. Taylor, Jr., Dr. Kip Kelso, and Wagner’s nephew, Rex Stocker. Kip Wagner died in the 1970s.
The production crew then gathered up their equipment and sped down the coast to the McLarty Treasure Museum, where they shot “interiors” and interviewed Bob “Frogfoot” Weller. The television series, tentatively entitled TREASURES…, is scheduled to be aired beginning in January, 1998, on Saturdays at 7:00 p.m. on the A & E Network. Watch your TV Guide for exact details.
When asked if the salvagers had ever before gotten together since the company’s dissolution, they replied that they regularly get together once a year for a glass of beer and pizza … or dinner. These guys are all retired now, but some still dive, and they are all active. Let’s hear it for these pioneers of shipwreck salvage!
Twenty years have passed and, with the exception of John Jones and Rex Stocker, all of the Real Eight members are gone. But it is nice to know that we still have our memories and some pictures to remember them by. The Real Eight Company and the members that formed its core have left a legacy that most men can only dream of. Without these men, the history of the re-discovery of the 1715 Fleet and its recovery would have undoubtedly been dramatically different.
Special Thanks to Ernie Richards who supplied images and text.
-Ben Costello, Director, 1715 Fleet Society