The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 19, 1997 · Page 10
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 10

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Monday, May 19, 1997
Page 10
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AID MONDAY, MAY 19, 1997 NEWS THE SALINA JOURNAL Battle at sea Government says treasure hunter harmed ocean sanctuary By TOM WELLS The Associnted Press KEY WEST. Fla. — Mel Fisher, the swashbuckling treasure hunter accused of desecrating the ocean floor in search of Spanish gold and silver, was stooped and shuffling in a federal courtroom. Amid a half-dozen defense attorneys and Justice Department lawyers in expensive- looking suits, the 74-year-old Fisher was dressed in a print shirt, baggy pants and black tennis shoes, drained from chemotherapy for cancer diagnosed several years ago. The former Indiana chicken farmer grimaced as he listened to the government accuse him of violating a marine sanctuary. Fisher, who often wore a 12-pound gold chain around his neck while on the high seas, shook his head slowly as he looked down at his massive, weather worn hands. His son, Kane Fisher, is also a defendant. In his black polo shirt, he looked like he just got in from a treasure hunt as he sat ramrod straight during the height of the government's courtroom assault. The government wants the Fishers to pay $664,161 for excavating 30-foot wide holes in the sandy bottom of the ocean a few miles off Marathon Key, where a fleet of Spanish galleons sank in a storm in 1733. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the money would go for sea grass restoration and a search by archaeologists for the estimated $100 million treasure that drew the Fishers to Coffins Patch, a spot about three miles off Marathon. The nonjury trial should be wrapping up in about a week. Parts of the treasure ship, a galleon in a fleet of perhaps 22, sank on its way back to Spain. Between January and March of 1992, Fisher found the anchor, cannonballs and a few other artifacts from the San Fernando. The Associated Press Treasure hunter Mel Fisher, shown here in 1988, holds a pair of gold chains discovered In the wreck of the Neustra Senora de Atocha as he stands outside of Christie's auction house. The Fishers, who found the Spanish galleons Atocha and Santa Margarita and their estimated $400 million of treasure in 1985, use big metal detectors dragged along behind hunter boats. Nine-foot deep holes in the sand are created by jet streams of water from two pipes lowered to the sea bed. The Justice Department accuses the Fishers of boring about 100 holes in the search off Marathon five years ago. "We don't deny digging holes," said Fisher spokesman Pat Clyne. "That is what you do when you hunt for treasure. But the holes were dug in a sandy channel. No sea grass was damaged. You can't create a hole with a jet stream of water where there is sea grass because the grass is matted." Mel Fisher is as experienced at courtroom battles as he is on the sea. He has fought governments and rivals who have lusted for his treasures. The state of Florida tried for a share of the Atocha, found 40 miles off Key West. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that the entire treasure, including thousands of emeralds and hundreds of gold and silver bars, belonged to the Fishers. This case could be more difficult for the Fishers. All of the waters around the Keys were declared a national marine sanctuary in 1990, two years before they started poking around off Marathon. Who can do what in the Keys sanctuary often depends upon the government's point of view. A few miles north at Cudjbe Key, federal agencies are helping the Air Force prepare an environmental impact state- ment in the military's quest to fire 12-ton test missiles from within the sanctuary. In the courtroom in Key West, Mel Fisher greets well- wishers, trying not to betray the pain that racks his body. The Fishers' attorneys have advised them not to talk to the media. Mel Fisher limits his comments to how-do-you-dos and shoulder shrugs as his two lawyers hover nearby, stepping in when the questions go beyond how he is feeling or how he likes the weather. Clyne said Fisher is still feisty when it comes to fighting the government. "He is a staunch supporter of the constitution and this government, but what he doesn't like is over-obtrusive government agencies that sweep across this country and take people's land and property." CANNES FILM FESTIVAL Perm named best actor at Cannes American's roje as a low-life in 'She's So Lovely' earns praise By The Associated Press CANNES, France — In a ceremony full of surprises, the 50th Cannes Film Festival awarded Golden Palms on Sunday to Japanese director Shohei Imamura for "Unagi" ("The Eel") and Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami for "The Taste of Cherry." Sean Penn took the best actor prize for his performance as a passionate low-lifer in "She's So Lovely" and Cathy Burke the best actress award as a battered wife in "Nil by Mouth," the directing debut of actor Gary Oldman. The winner for best director was Wong Kar-Wai from Hong Kong for "Happy Together," one of the few Asian films to take a serious look at homosexuality. Imamura, 70, is a repeat winner of Golden Palm, capturing it in 1983 for "The Ballad of Narayama." He is the fourth director to win the award twice. Kiarostami was fortunate that his film even made it into the competition. The film deals with suicide, considered an especially delicate subject in Muslim countries, and the Iranian government waited until the eleventh hour to allow it in the festival. Imamura's film also deals with The Associated Press Sean Penn was named best actor Sunday at the Cannes Film Festival. suicide. It is the story of a man paroled from prison after killing his wife; the man's closest companion is his pet eel. His life changes when he saves a young women from trying to kill herself. The choice of Penn as best actor was particularly unexpected since many had thought Penn's wife, Robin Wright Penn — she co-stars in the movie as Penn's on-again, off-again partner — would be named best actress. "I love this country," Penn, clearly moved, told the audience. Now Accepting Applications for Enrollment for Summer Da,y Camp Camp begins May 30 thru August 18 Boys & Girls - 1st thru 6th grade Monday thru Friday Call or Stop by The Salvation Army 913-823-3441 from 1 pm to 8 pm Monday thru Friday 1137 N. Santa Fe, Salina

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