1 June 1948—5 November 2001
Captain Stephen Shouppé is probably best remembered by 1715 Fleet collectors for the wonderful artifacts and coins he salvaged from the Cannon Pile Wreck. His first major find was serendipitously on Fleet Day, July 31st, twenty years ago (1992). Steve died in November of 2001. What follows is a remembrance of Steve by his friend Doug Armstrong, first published in Plus Ultra in 2001 and excerpted here by permission of the Doug and Ernie Richards.
“I first met Steve some years ago when I was just getting my feet wet in the treasure salvage world. This was at a time when it seemed that all of the good finds had been found, and there just couldn’t be much left for a new kid on the block to wrench free from the grip of an unforgiving ocean. That is when I ran into a guy who had more enthusiasm about what could still be dug up than anyone I knew. I had been puttering around with artifact conservation, and it didn’t take long before we both discovered that we had much in common….We became friends.
This was back in the late 1980s, and Steve had been quietly working with his brother to research what seemed to be an unknown Spanish wreck. Somehow a pile of seven iron cannons had escaped detection during more than twenty years of salvage activity in the nearby waters. The new site eventually became known as the Cannon Pile Wreck. Much to my delight Steve invited me to take part in his fledgling enterprise, as he struggled to put together equipment and crew so he could join the real world of treasure diving.
Through mutual friends we found a decent salvage boat and managed to put it into seaworthy condition. At last, when the Tequesta was ready, Steve was able to obtain a lease [from the state of Florida] and explore the area around the pile of mysterious cannons. I worked with him for a season and then needed to move on to other tasks as career and family provided new horizons for my own life.
Those early years of salvage by Steve and his company, Galleon Research, were full of hopes and setbacks. However, time is persuasive to a secretive ocean, and in her own good time she rewarded his patience. After several years of fruitless hunting, a fortune in gold coins, fine jewelry, and many wonderful artifacts were eventually exposed within the beautiful sands surrounding the old pile of rusting cannons. Steve’s dream of becoming a successful treasure salvager had finally come to pass. But, it seems that such baubles weren’t to be the greatest fortune he would discover.
Captain Shouppé could act rough and tough and give the impression that he had a heart of stone when he wanted to, but the part of him that I knew best was his love of people. This was especially true when it came to his family. The guy was a colorful character, to be sure, and during many adventures around the world he managed to spend a lot of time in the Philippine Islands. During this time he met a wonderful lady who would eventually become his wife.
And, as if this discovery wasn’t enough, he also found several children living in various parts of the island jungles who would come along as part of the deal! He and his new wife, Thea, went to work and eventually pulled enough bureaucratic wires to hog-tie an elephant before they finally managed to bring the whole herd of children to America. In addition to three daughters and a son from an earlier marriage, Steve now had five more sons and another daughter. These new guys ranged in age from five to twelve. Amazing! ….” [For the complete text of Doug’s remembrance, please see the fourth quarter of the Plus Ultra Newsletter 2001.]