National treasure: The legendary underwater explorer Teddy Tucker. *Photo by Sarah Lagan
National treasure: The legendary underwater explorer Teddy Tucker. *Photo by Sarah Lagan
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WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 9: A quick flick through the pages of Teddy Tucker’s book will light up your eyes with a treasure trove of gold and jewels and other ancient artefacts.

Treasure! A Diver’s Life is the first book the legendary underwater explorer has written and it is packed with some of the most significant and bountiful wrecks he has discovered throughout his 60 years in the ocean.

Along with accounts of treasure hunting expeditions in Bermuda and around the world, Tucker also offers an insight into life in the Tucker household and growing up in Bermuda.

So why has he decided to pull this together now after all this time?

“Old age!” he laughs. “Everyday I wake up, I scratch the cat and say ‘It’s a bonus — I’m still here!’

“That and a lot of pushing from my wife Edna and daughter Wendy.

“I have been working on this book all my life — I have been keeping books and logs and notes and stuff that I have collected since 1947.

Memories

“My problem was my memories were too good — and I didn’t want the book to be too big. Wendy and her mother said sat down and helped me put it together as well as Mimi (Mireille B. Rankin). I cut a lot out of it — but it’s got a bit of everything it and there’s quite a bit of history in there.”

Reproduced in the book is Tucker’s first-hand account of finding the famous Tucker Cross — his “most treasured discovery”. He found the gold and emerald relic on the San Pedro in 1955 on the ocean floor north of Bermuda and it is hailed by many to be one of the finest single items of treasure to have been found in the ocean in modern history.

Unfortunately, the cross was stolen ahead of a visit by Queen Elizabeth II in 1975 and replaced by a replica and to this day, no one knows who took it.

So what would Tucker say to those sceptics who believe that Teddy himself has the cross hidden away? “I’d tell them to come and find it!” he jokes.

As world-class expert on shipwrecks, Tucker’s stories in this book have been woven together through a detective-like process of studying the way a ship was built, or the materials found within. A few scattered timbers could reveal to him the build of a ship, her origin, destination and the characters aboard her.

He has painted pictures of the wrecks he has discovered which are printed at the beginning of each chapter in the book.

Tucker has discovered more than 250 wrecks worldwide including more than 100 in Bermuda. He also believes there is still a rich future for treasure hunters in Bermuda.

However, it is his personal view that regulations under the Shipwreck Act to protect the historical provenance of abandoned shipwrecks, need to be changed.

“There is treasure here absolutely and somebody will find it. But the act has been a damaging — since the law was changed about six years ago there hasn’t been a new wreck declared and there are wrecks out there.

“Why would anyone declare it if they don’t get anything out of it? You’ve got to be realistic there are not enough people or enough money to patrol the reef.

“In the beginning, if you found a wreck like the ones I have written about here, you registered them and the government gave you a permit to excavate them and collect the artefacts. You made a report to them and they either bought it or turned it loose to you. But now it’s a no win — nobody gets anything. The government doesn’t get anything, the public doesn’t get to see it, nothing gets reported and what was found is long gone over the horizon.”

Tucker’s life has includeed much more than just finding treasure. Along with Mendel L. Peterson, chairman of the Department of Armed Forces History at the Smithsonian Institute, Tucker developed a new grid system for surveying wreck sites which they taught at the University of Maryland.

He is also well versed in marine biology and famously proved that there were six gilled shark in Bermuda’s waters. He is a founding member of the now world-wide Beebe Project discovering and studying deep-sea animals using submersibles and cameras.

Among his many achievements he is a historian and lecturer and has been featured in numerous books, films and magazines. He was the inspiration behind The Deep by Peter Benchley (Jaws) who he considers a good friend.

Tucker is truly considered a national treasure in Bermuda but could anyone come even close to carrying on the legacy of the legendary explorer?

“Probably not,” he says honestly. “But Phillipe Rouja (custodian of historic wrecks) is young and enthusiastic. He seems to be coming on well.”

The book ends on a mystical note with the vivid re-enactment of King Neptune’s judgement day at Fiddler’s Green where the souls of “good and courageous” sailors lost at sea – enter a watery afterlife in paradise.

We can only hope that this fabled seafarer will not be heading to the Green in a hurry and will be around to share his tales for many years to come.

Treasure! A Diver's Life is on sale exclusively at the Bermuda Underwater Exporation Institute in Hamilton for $59.95.