Al Mikalow has a boat waiting for him when he retires next year.
There only one problem; it’s 120 feet beneath the surface of San Francisco Bay.
Mikalow, a veteran deep-sea diver, plans to go after the wreck of the City of Rio de Janeiro, a Pacific Mail steamer that sank in 1901 with the loss of 128 lives.
Mikalow claims the ship was loaded with Chinese silver bars and about $37,000 in gold coins that were not listed on the manifest in an effort to thwart pirates.
‘Damn Thing Is Down There’
“I know the damn thing is down there,” said Mikalow, who operates the Coastal School of Deep Sea Diving.
“I’ve talked to a man, a fellow Mason, who swore to me on the Masonic oath that he stepped over several layers of silver bars in the strongroom.
“We’re looking at a total of about $3 million to $11 million on today’s market,” he said of the treasure’s value.
The City of Rio de Janeiro managed to avoid pirates only to sink at the end of a voyage from the China Sea via Hawaii when it apparently hit some rocks while navigating in dense fog.
Mikalow has already brought up some items from the wreck he believes to be the Rio: pieces of coal, some paneling, human bones and a gauge made at the turn of the century.
Search Began in 1950
“I’ve been chasing the Rio since 1950,” he said. “I know what’s in there. It’s taken this long to build the proper equipment and raise enough money.”
Mikalow said he will have to go “through about 60 feet of water and another 60 feet of sand” to get to the Rio.
“I’m going to need something to do in my retirement,” he said.