DATELINE: Sebastian Inlet Marina, August 25, 1997

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.

Ernie Richards wrote a summary of this event for the PLUS ULTRA Newsletter, 4th Quarter, 1997. Here is his report as it appeared:


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!

-Ernie Richards

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION! The Location: the Sebastian Inlet Marina. The Scene: 1997 Reunion of the dive group that was Real Eight Corp., the finders of the 1715 Spanish treasure fleet. The Activity: a California-based production company getting the reunion on tape! PHOTO by Ernie Richards.


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

3 thoughts on “DATELINE: Sebastian Inlet Marina, August 25, 1997”

  1. There was always someone between Lou Ullian and my camera lens. He is partly in view in the second from last shot…emerging from the right. Bob Weller appears in the last shot. He got the best photo of all six divers, but, alas, it was not in my file to include here. What a day! What a great bunch of gentlemen they were!


  2. Pamela Cooper recorded them in the library around this same time. I tried many years ago to get the video onto digital so everyone could enjoy online. As much knowledge I had in doing this for others (analog to digital, and not that difficult with the right software and hookups) I failed. Later, I was more successful, but the tags to the files somehow became corrupt. To my knowledge, unless someone has given them a video player, it will never be seen.

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